What Causes Fatigue?

Do you want to know what causes fatigue? Fatigue is a term that refers to an overall feeling of tiredness and lack of energy. It is not the same as simply feeling sleepy or drowsy. Being sleepy is one symptom of fatigue, but it is not the same thing.

Types of Fatigue

Fatigued WomanThere are 2 main types of fatigue – physical and mental. An individual with physical fatigue might find it hard to do things he/she usually does, such as climbing stairs. Symptoms include muscle weakness. Diagnosis may involve completing a strength test. On the other hand, a person with mental fatigue may find it hard to concentrate and stay focused. He/she may feel sleepy and have difficulty staying awake while working.

Causes of Fatigue

Fatigue is associated with various lifestyle factors and health conditions. Listed below are the different causes of fatigue.

Lifestyle Factors

• Lack of sleep
• Being overweight or obese
• Lack of physical activity
• Periods of emotional stress
• Using recreational drugs
• Using alcohol on a regular basis
• Not eating a nutritious diet
• Consuming too much caffeine

Physical Health Conditions

• Anemia
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Infections such as cold and flu
• Arthritis
• Addison’s disease, a disorder that affects hormone levels
• Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
• Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
• Autoimmune disorders
• Diabetes
• Cancer
• Liver disease
• Kidney disease
• Emphysema
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Hormonal contraception such as birth control pills
• Pregnancy

Mental Health Issues

• Stress
• Anxiety
• Depression
• Emotional exhaustion or burnout
• Bereavement and grief
• Boredom
• Seasonal affective disorder
• Eating disorders such as anorexia
• Life events, such as getting a divorce or moving home

Drugs and Medications

• Anxiety medications
• Some antidepressants
• Antihypertensives
• Steroids
• Statins
• Sedatives
• Antihistamines

Heart and Lung Conditions

• Pneumonia
• Asthma
• Arrhythmias
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
• Coronary heart disease
• Valvular heart disease
• Congestive heart failure

Sleep Factors

• Insomnia
• Sleep apnea
• Working late
• Working different shifts
• Reflux esophagitis
• Narcolepsy
• Jet lag

Symptoms of Fatigue

Common symptoms associated with fatigue include:

• Daytime drowsiness
• Apathy and a lack of motivation
• Aching or sore muscles
• Gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
• Headache
• Irritability or moodiness
• Difficulty concentrating
• Vision problems such as blurriness
• Slowed response time

When to See Your Doctor

Consult your doctor if you are feeling fatigued and you:

• Cannot think of anything that may account for your fatigue
• Have experienced unexplained weight loss
• Have a higher than normal body temperature
• Regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep
• Feel very sensitive to colder temperatures
• Believe you may be depressed

If you’ve made significant changes to address the problem, yet your fatigue has continued for 2 weeks or more, talk to your doctor.

What Can You Do to Reduce Fatigue?

There are many things that can be done to help reduce fatigue. To boost energy levels and overall health, you can do the following:

• Practice healthy eating habits
• Drink enough fluids to stay hydrated
• Avoid known stressors
• Get enough sleep
• Exercise on a regular basis
• Take part in relaxing activities like yoga
• Avoid a work schedule that is overly demanding
• Abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs


Tired ManFatigue is a common symptom of various health conditions that can range from mild to serious. It is also a result of some lifestyle choices, such as poor diet or lack of exercise. If the fatigue that you feel does not resolve with adequate rest and proper nutrition, consult your doctor. He or she can help diagnose what is causing your fatigue and recommend ways to treat it.

These lifestyle changes can help lessen fatigue. It is also important that you follow your doctor’s recommendations for any diagnosed health condition. You should take this matter seriously. Left untreated, fatigue may take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

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