Depression and Fatigue: the Warning Sign of Feeling Tired

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Exhaustion and fatigue does not always signify underlying clinical depression. But, it can be a common warning sign amongst adolescents that they might be suffering from depression. Fatigue is a common residual symptom of depression. If your child has been previously diagnosed with depression, or has experienced other signs of depression, fatigue may signify that it’s necessary to seek an evaluation with a mental health professional.

Does Depression Make You Tired?

Teens go through significant physical, emotion, and social changes that can create a challenging developmental time. Everything from striving for academic success to forming their own identity can cause challenges that lead to fatigue. Teens experiencing fatigue may find it even more challenging to navigate their middle school and high school years, especially if that fatigue accompanies depression.

While some teens exhibit classic signs of fatigue or sadness, others may present aggressive symptoms, such as irritability, agitation, or even stomachaches and headaches. If your child expresses that symptoms of fatigue or depression are impacting their well-being and functioning, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional through an adolescent treatment program for depression.

Warning Signs of Fatigue in Teens

Fatigue can impact physical, cognitive, and emotional function. In teens, this may be noticed through some of the following behavior:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decline in work ethic or academic performance
  • Slowness or sluggishness
  • Reduced activity
  • Sleepiness
  • Apathy
  • Social difficulties interacting with peers and friends
  • Lost interest in hobbies, sports, or extracurricular activities

These are not the only symptoms of fatigue. And, not every teen needs to be diagnosed with depression as a result of fatigue. Fatigue can also occur from stress or other common factors of growing up. However, these symptoms and more could be warning signs for teens who previously exhibited depressive behavior or have been diagnosed with depression. Stay vigilant on changes in your teen’s behavior to know when to seek treatment or help from a mental health professional.

Reasons Why Depression Makes You Tired

There are plenty of reasons why depression could make someone tired, as not everyone experiences depression because of the same reasons or in the same way. There are cognitive, physical, and even social factors that link fatigue to depression. While those are not all the reasons why depression may cause exhaustion, they are indicators of what an adolescent suffering from depression may experience when their life is impacted by fatigue.

The Brain

When someone experiences fatigue because of depression, it could be a sign of dysregulation of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters help you control mood, emotions, and how much energy you have. For those suffering from depression, these neurotransmitters could get mixed up, interfering with the brain’s ability to keep emotions in check and regulate sleeping versus waking states. This could lead to disturbances in sleep patterns, exacerbating feelings of fatigue and initiating a relentless cycle of exhaustion.  

Physical Factors

The harmful impact of depression on physical health further contributes to feelings of fatigue. Unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and substance abuse are common among individuals with depression and can further sap energy levels. The physiological stress response triggered by depression, characterized by elevated levels of cortisol and other stress hormones, takes a toll on the body, leaving individuals feeling drained and depleted. Chronic pain, a common comorbidity of depression, exacerbates feelings of fatigue, adding to the burden individuals must bear.

Social Factors

Social factors play a pivotal role in exacerbating fatigue among individuals with depression. The stigma surrounding mental illness often leads to feelings of isolation and alienation, depriving individuals of vital sources of social support. Social withdrawal, a common symptom of depression, further isolates individuals from their support networks, leaving them to grapple with their symptoms alone. The absence of meaningful social connections deprives individuals of the emotional nourishment needed to combat feelings of exhaustion and despair, perpetuating the cycle of fatigue.

How to Reduce Depression-Related Fatigue

If you are concerned that you or a loved one’s fatigue may be caused by depression, it could be time to consult with a mental health professional. They can help get you set up with a treatment program that addresses the underlying symptoms of depression that could be causing fatigue. With proper treatment, those suffering from depression learn how to cope with their depression, gradually helping to reduce symptoms of fatigue through healthy mental and physical practice.

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