Can Fatigue Cause Anxiety? Doctors Answer Your Fatigue Questions

Fact checked by Olga Sadouskaya, MD
Clinical Pharmacologist, Chief Medical Officer

Most of us have felt fatigued at some point in our lives. Fatigue can be a symptom of an underlying condition, a side effect of certain medications, or a result of prolonged stress. Fatigue itself can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

In this article, we will answer some popular questions about fatigue and shed some light on how this feeling of exhaustion and tiredness affects your body and mind.

Fatigue vs. malaise: What’s the difference?

Fatigue and malaise are similar, but fatigue is more generalized, and malaise is more localized. Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion caused by physical or mental exertion, injury, stress, or depression.

Fatigue is a common symptom of several health conditions, including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia syndrome, and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Meanwhile, malaise is a general feeling of being unwell that signifies the onset of an illness.

Malaise is often used to describe a vague and nonspecific feeling of illness. Medical issues that may cause malaise include:

  • Anemia (low red blood cells)
  • Narcolepsy (sleep disorders)
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)

What factors can increase fatigue?

Fatigue is a symptom of many medical conditions. It is also associated with the side effects of some medications. Here are some factors that can increase fatigue:

  • Chronic illness: Chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome can cause fatigue, depression, and anxiety.
  • Sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep: Not getting enough sleep can make you feel tired and less able to cope with stressors in your life. Insomnia or other sleep disorders may also contribute to fatigue.
A woman lying on a sofa due to fatigue syndrome
  • Stress: Stressful events and situations may lead to increased feelings of exhaustion, which can cause even more stress. Stressors vary widely, but they all have one thing in common: They cause your body to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which disrupt your body’s normal functions and exhaust its energy reserves.
  • Lack of exercise: Regular exercise can improve mood, reduce stress, and help manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that may contribute to fatigue. Although, it’s important to note that too much exercise can also leave you feeling tired afterward.
  • Inadequate nutrition: Malnutrition happens when you don’t eat enough food for your body to work properly. This might happen if you follow a strict diet or lose your appetite due to illness or injury.

Can the weather make you feel tired?

It turns out that there is a connection between the weather and how tired you feel. Several factors can make you feel more tired when it’s hot or cold outside.

Your body needs more energy and nutrients to keep from overheating or getting too cold. As a result, you can feel extra tired during a particularly hot or freezing day.

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Another factor is dehydration. When it’s hot outside, water evaporates from our bodies more quickly than usual, which causes you to lose fluids at an increased rate. This can lead to dehydration if you don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day. Fatigue is a common symptom of dehydration.

Can fatigue cause anxiety?

Fatigue can have a physical or emotional cause. Although fatigue can be a symptom of anxiety, the two are not always connected. It’s important to know when you’re experiencing fatigue as a symptom of anxiety and/or depression so you can talk to your doctor about managing it.

Although they may not necessarily trigger excessive worrying by themselves, fatigue and lack of sleep may contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

Is fatigue a side effect of certain medications like apixaban?

Fatigue is a common side effect of many medications, but apixaban is not one of them. It’s an anticoagulant medication used to prevent blood clots from forming in the body. It does this by blocking an enzyme called thrombin that is needed for clotting, which makes it useful for people who have atrial fibrillation, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. Some of the common side effects include:

  • Changes in mood or behavior, including depression, anxiety, and memory loss
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Dizziness or fainting spells
  • Difficulty swallowing food or liquids
  • Nausea and vomiting

So, is fatigue a side effect of apixaban? No, it is not.

Which foods can cause fatigue?

The most common foods that can cause fatigue are caffeine (yes, you read that right!), sugar, and refined carbohydrates.

While caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, increases your mental alertness, and decreases your perception of fatigue, too much of it can have the opposite effect.

So if you’re wondering why you feel unusually tired throughout the day, maybe you had a few too many cups of coffee.

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so different amounts of coffee or tea may cause fatigue in different people. Try to limit your caffeine intake to see any changes in your energy levels.

A cup of coffee as some of the foods that can cause fatigue

Sugar also affects your energy level. When you eat too much of it, it causes your blood sugar levels to rise quickly. When this happens, your body releases insulin to help bring your blood sugar back to a normal level. This can make you feel more energetic until your body uses up all the sugar. After that sugar rush, you may feel particularly exhausted.

Lastly, refined carbohydrates are another cause of fatigue. They contain high amounts of simple sugars that cause blood sugar levels to spike and drop quickly.

Is fatigue a sign of pregnancy?

Feeling tired and fatigued is a common symptom of pregnancy but, by itself, is not a definite sign that you’re pregnant. Fatigue during early pregnancy may be due to the following:

  • Increased blood volume
  • Increased blood flow to your kidneys and liver
  • Hormonal changes
  • Increased production of breast milk, which requires extra calories
  • Changes in your sleeping patterns

Conclusion

Being tired is something most of us have experienced at some point in our lives. Still, if you’re experiencing persistent fatigue regularly, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor. They can help determine whether there is an underlying medical cause for your fatigue or if it may be related to another condition like depression or anxiety. If you are feeling anxious or depressed because of your fatigue, then finding treatment options may help improve both conditions.

January 18, 2023