If you've been feeling particularly tired as of late, your doctor should look for possible causes — be it an underlying infection, a disease like diabetes, or even something simple, like insomnia — and get you back to your usual self. But if you're still burnt out, or your sleepiness just won't go away, it could be a sign your fatigue is actually due to anxiety.
If you have intense anxiety or panic attacks, this might not come as news. Since this type of anxiety can be draining and overwhelming, it makes perfect sense why it might zap all your energy. But chronic tiredness can crop up in milder forms of anxiety, too.
"Anxiety drives our sympathetic nervous system into overdrive. It raises our heart rate, blood pressure, increases muscle tension, and releases toxins into our system that can cause inflammation. All of this can make you feel bad," clinical psychologist Dr. Joshua Klapow, host of The Web radio show, tells Bustle. "We can feel fatigue and malaise strictly from being anxious."
If you're an otherwise healthy person, but still feel exhausted all the time, this may finally explain why. Read on for some ways to tell the difference between normal tiredness, and anxiety-induced fatigue.
1. Coffee Doesn't Seem To Be Helping
If you were dealing with normal tiredness, you would likely feel some relief after drinking a cup of coffee or two. But this trick doesn't always take the edge off for people with anxiety — and in some cases can even make it worse. As therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW says, "If your daily cup of coffee or some midday chocolate isn't perking you up, you may be dealing with more than being tired."
2. You Still Feel Tired After A Good Night's Sleep
"If you are sleeping at least seven hours a night and still feel tired, it is likely something else is going on," Hershenson says. Give yourself a couple nights of seven to eights hours sleep, and if you don't feel better, it may be time to check in with a doctor.
3. You're Suddenly Tired Before A Social Event
If you get "sleepy" before that big get-together, take note. "For those who suffer from social anxiety, being around a large group ... will [leave you feeling] drained, sometimes both physically and mentally before, during, or after," Aimee Noel, LCSW, clinical director at Sober College, tells Bustle. "Those without social anxiety could feel energized interacting with a lot of people. If your tiredness correlates with these events, it may be a sign of anxiety."
4. Your Stomach's Been Bothering You
Again, anxiety often goes hand in hand with physical symptoms, so don't ignore any weird issues you might be experiencing. As Hershenson says, if you're struggling with anxiety, "you likely will experience other symptoms such as stomach pain, migraines, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations." Along with all that tiredness.
5. You're Always A Little Too Tired
Feeling sleepy after a long day is one thing. But if you're totally and positively drained all the time, it could be due to the fact you're on "high alert" and feeling anxious all the time. "That creates intense cortisol levels rushing through your body," clinical psychologist Gladys Frankel, PhD, tells Bustle. It's like your body is constantly asking, "Where is the danger?" And that can be exhausting.
6. You Don't Have Much Of An Appetite
Anxiety can really mess with your appetite, which can then create a vicious cycle that increases fatigue you might have already been experiencing. As Klapow says, "You may skip meals, not have an appetite, and thus not have adequate nutrition to keep your energy levels up. Anxiety can also dehydrate you, playing into feelings of fatigue and malaise."
7. You Would Describe Yourself As "Burnt Out"
There's definitely a connection between anxiety, tiredness, and our busy lives. "The problem with today's stressors are that they are low grade (like our phones ringing, 24-hour social media, etc.) but continuous, which means the fight-or-flight pathway never turns off or has a chance to rebuild," Dr. Steven Zodkoy, author of Misdiagnosed: The Adrenal Fatigue Link, tells Bustle. And that can definitely lead to a feeling of burn out.
8. You're Crying All The Time
It's normal to feel a bit weepy when you're overly tired. But if your fatigue is due to anxiety, it could reveal itself as an outpouring of emotion that doesn't go away, even if you've had a good night's sleep. As Zodkoy tells me, it's normal to be overly-emotional when you're anxious, as well as a bit depressed.
9. You Have Brain Fog
If you feel "out of it" on top of everything else, take note. "The number one symptom revealing that you are suffering from anxiety is lack of clarity," says mental health counselor Holly Davis, MA. "This is the plaguing mind chatter that includes second guessing yourself (and everyone else), being forgetful, and the overall lack luster of life that weighs down your body and mind."
10. You Have A Hard Time Getting To Sleep
When you're tired, often all it takes to feel better is the simple act of climbing into bed, and sleeping soundly 'til morning. But this can feel damn near impossible for people with anxiety. As Zodkoy tells me, anxious people often have a difficult time falling asleep. And that's often due to their worry, as well as those circling thoughts.
11. You Have Muscle And Joint Pain
Do your shoulders hurt all the time? As Noel says, "Oftentimes those with anxiety tense their muscles unknowingly and have a hard time relaxing their bodies. If your fatigue is accompanied by body soreness/tension and you have not been working out, this may be a sign it was due to anxiety."
12. You Wake Up A Lot During The Night
Waking up a lot during the night will obviously contribute to feelings of fatigue. But have you ever wondered why you keep waking up? "Perseverating on triggers like finances or relationships [can make] it challenging for the sufferer to turn their head off," Noel says. "This can cause a restless night’s sleep and tiredness and fatigue in the morning."
13. You're Having Trouble Getting Out Of Bed
It's normal to stay in when you're feeling tired, or like you need a night alone. But if this becomes your MO, take note. "When isolation seems like a good idea, perhaps the symptoms are not just from a long week, or year, but perhaps even years of the drain that stress has taken," Davis says.
When you're feeling tired for "no reason," there are lots of health concerns you need to be looking into, and one of them is definitely anxiety. If this sounds like it might be the case, consider seeing a therapist. He or she can help you cope with your anxiety, and get back to feelin' like your old self again.
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