The Relationship between Fatigue and Depression

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According to a number of published studies, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of people who seek medical care for fatigue are actually experiencing depression.

Fatigue is something that many of us experience from time to time. When fatigue becomes persistent, however, it is a good idea to check in with a medical professional for some answers.

Fatigue can be both physical and mental. Sleepiness, lack of energy, mental sluggishness - all of these are symptoms of fatigue. Ironically, they are also among the symptoms of depression for many people. So, how does a medical professional tell the difference?

How to Tell the Difference

Clinicians have long suspected a relationship between fatigue and depression. The co-occurrence of these two disorders is common. What hasn't been clear is whether there is a biological reason for this.

Fatigue is common to many physical disorders, often as a result of inflammation. Cellular inflammation is the result of the immune system struggling to protect the body from infection. A checkup from a medical professional can rule out the presence of any disease, disorder or infection stimulating the immune system.

With no physical disorder found to be the cause of fatigue, the focus would then shift to the possibility of depression.

How to Overcome Fatigue

Whether fatigue is prompted by physical or psychological reasons, it is generally responsive to exercise. For the depressed or fatigued individual, getting exercise might be the last thing they want to do, but fatigue can be temporarily put in abeyance with exercise, communing with friends, taking a walk, taking a shower or anything else that can increase the heart rate for a period of time.

Regular exercise is also helpful in ensuring a good night's sleep. A solid routine for sleep, free of interruption and limited to roughly the same time period each day, can help diminish fatigue.

Another approach to treatment of fatigue is to make certain that a balanced and healthy diet is consumed. Keeping blood glucose levels within a narrow range (few highs or lows) will limit the effect that carbohydrates can have on overall energy. Fresh (not processed) foods, low-fat proteins and complex carbohydrates are a combination that can stabilize blood sugar levels and keep energy levels where they should be.

There is no specific treatment for depression-related fatigue. Treatment of the depression will help diminish the fatigue over time. In the meantime, it is important to realize that you will not always feel this way. Take every possible step to prevent or address fatigue and don’t lose sight of the fact that what you are experiencing is temporary.

Sources: and and

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