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Chronic fatigue

The strongest have their moments of fatigue.


The impact of fatigue

In Canada, fatigue is one of the top 10 reasons patients visit their family doctor.  About 7.5% of people are affected by chronic fatigue.  And for some, fatigue is so severe that it interferes with other aspects of their life.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, weariness, exhaustion, or lack of energy.  There are many possible causes to fatigue and usually more than one is at play.  Often, fatigue is caused by overwork, inadequate sleep, poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, prescription or over-the-counter medications, seasonal viral illnesses (e.g., common cold), and/or substance use (alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs).  Sometimes fatigue heralds an underlying medication condition (e.g., cancer, anemia, depression, etc.) which warrants a visit to a doctor.

What are the symptoms of fatigue

People with fatigue often:

  • Have pain or headache
  • Fall asleep easily or fight daytime yawning/drowsiness
  • Have a blank stare or less expressive face
  • Adopt a poor posture or move slowly
  • Have red eyes or dark shadows
  • Feel restless, irritable, impatient, impulsive and/or aggressive
  • Are passive
  • May be disinhibited or europhic
  • Endorse anxiety symptoms
  • Struggle with sadness or depressed mood
  • Loose interest or pleasure
  • Feel guilty or worthless
  • Have difficulty doing mental work or following a conversation
  • Have difficulty multitasking
  • Experience slow thinking or data processing

When should I seek help?

If you suffer from fatigue for more than 2 weeks, you should seek help from your medical doctor or nurse practitioner.

What are the treatment options for fatigue?

Different treatment options are available depending on your symptoms and other conditions.

  1. If an underlying medical condition was found to cause or contribute to fatigue (e.g., iron deficiency anemia), the first step would be to correct it (e.g., taking iron supplements).
  2. In some cases, medications can be prescribed to help with fatigue.  For example, an antidepressant might be helpful for someone with fatigue and symptoms of depression.
  3. Of all the different treatments for fatigue, exercise has been proven to be the most beneficial.  Regular exercise decreases fatigue more effectively than rest! Different people have different limits when it comes to exercise; check with your doctor or rehab team before engaging in a new exercise regimen.
  4. Sleep optimization and stress management are essential stepping stones to properly manage fatigue.
  5. Many people find cognitive and behavioural modifications helpful.  This is not a cure for fatigue but rather strategies to help them cope better with fatigue.

Can drinking coffee boost my energy?

People use caffeine worldwide to decrease their feeling of fatigue.  Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, energy drinks, many over-the-counter medications, and natural products (like ginseng, ginkgo biloba).  Short term, it can have placebo effects and even beneficial effects to increase energy.  However, if used incorrectly (too much, combined with other products or at the wrong time) it can have negative effects like anxiety, sleep problems or rebound headache which could all worsen fatigue.  Bottom line: do not rely on that morning coffee to treat fatigue, there are better solutions!
If you have been struggling with chronic fatigue, book your fatigue consultation with our expert team now.  Our Energy management program will help you learn the tools and acquire the skills to break the vicious cycle of fatigue, reach your goals and improve your quality of life.

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