Is extreme fatigue a symptom of depression?

Dr. Kelly Traver

Many doctors feel that "emotional fatigue" may be the most energy-draining cause of fatigue there is. If you feel this is where the source of your fatigue may lie, it is important to have a well-delineated plan for treatment through stress reduction techniques, medication, counseling, or all three. Daily exercise can also be an enormous benefit in depression.

Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, as is a change in sleeping patterns—either sleeping too much or too little. It's estimated that up to one in five women will experience depression at some point in her lifetime. Fatigue or decreased energy is one of the main symptoms of depression.

Major depression can cause a lack of energy or ongoing feelings of fatigue, exhaustion, or tiredness. "Fatigue is a very sensitive indicator of depression," says Michael Garrett, MD, vice chairman and professor of Clinical Psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. "You may visit and find dishes piled up and things in disarray in ways that are not typical." In addition, your mom or dad or spouse may no longer seem to care about their appearance, says Ian Cook, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Depression Research and Clinic Program at UCLA: "They may not bother to shower, or brush their hair or teeth." If a loved one and his or her personal surroundings (e.g., their home, work area, and even pets) start to look like they're not being cared for, clinical depression could be at least part of the cause.

Dr. Lara Honos-Webb, PhD
Psychology Specialist
The symptom of fatigue in depression promotes a withdrawal from one's life. Fatigue can be so extreme that even thinking about doing laundry may be impossible. Some people with depression want to sleep most of the day and find it hard to do the simplest chores or even maintain proper hygiene. Others make it to work and back, only to collapse in front of the TV every evening, virtually unable to move for entire weekends.
Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

More About this Book

Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life

A New Way of Thinking About DepressionWhat does it really mean to be depressed? You know depression as a collection of symptoms—fatigue, listlessness, feelings of worthlessness—and the source of...
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum
Integrative Medicine Specialist

Extreme fatigue can be a symptom of depression. But there are many other causes of fatigue that are mistakenly diagnosed as depression. How can you tell? In depression, if somebody asks if you have many interests, you'll say no. If coming from other physical causes like chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, your answer will be "yes I have many interests, but I have no energy to pursue them."

Extreme fatigue or tiredness can be a symptom of depression—but it may also be a symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is a condition that occurs when a person has extreme fatigue that doesn't get better after resting and worsens with physical or mental activity. CFS and depression have several other symptoms in common, including body aches and trouble with concentrating. If you suspect you have depression or CFS, talk to your doctor. He or she can make sure you get a proper diagnosis and discuss the treatment options.

Extreme fatigue could be a symptom of depression, but a full medical work up should be conducted to rule out other causes of extreme fatigue before determining it is due to depression.

Continue Learning about Depression Symptoms

Depression Symptoms

Depression Symptoms

Depression is more than just a low mood. Symptoms of depression include chronic sad feelings lasting up to two weeks, lack of interest in activities normally enjoyed, sleep disruption, overeating or appetite loss, feelings of guil...

t or worthlessness and a preoccupation with death/suicide. Depression symptoms also differ in men and women; the onset may follow highly stressful events such as physical and emotional trauma. Men tend to be more irritable and act out while women often cry or sleep more.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.