Depression is a complex disease with several interlinked causes, including genetics, stressful life events and brain chemistry.
Low levels or imbalance of neurotransmitters are associated with depression and numerous other symptoms, including low motivation and energy levels.
Feeling fatigued is reported by over 90% of people who experience depression.
How brain chemicals affect us physically
Neurotransmitters influence our mood, emotions and behaviour.
Four crucial chemicals are serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and epinephrine.
When you look at the role of each of these chemicals, you will see that they play a significant role in motivation, feelings of self-esteem and wellbeing.
Seratonin is responsible for feelings of happiness for mood stability and helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
If your serotonin levels are low, you will feel miserable and lack self-esteem. You may experience memory problems, decreased sex drive and cravings for sweet food.
Dopamine, like serotonin, is a feel-good chemical and plays a big part in our ability to think and learn. It is the chemical responsible for motivation and curiosity.
Otherwise known as adrenaline, epinephrine is the fight and flight hormone we need to save ourselves from danger.
While it is an important hormone, an excessive amount is released when we experience chronic stress, leaving us feeling burnt out.
This chemical amplifies brain activity to whatever you are already feeling.
So while oxytocin can be a feel-good chemical, the opposite is also true.
What is Depression Fatigue
Feeling exhausted is a hallmark of depression.
But how do you know the difference between everyday tiredness and depression-related fatigue?
Depression related fatigue is not relieved by catching up on sleep. It permeates every facet of a person’s life,
- Physically: Everyday tasks become difficult, even showering and getting dressed.
- Cognitively: Difficult in sustaining, concentrating and memorising.
- Emotionally: Lack of emotional connection with loved ones and friends
Ways to Cope
There is no exact timeframe for treating depression, and how it affects each individual is unique.
However, some helpful ways may alleviate feelings of exhaustion,
- Prioritise getting good sleep. To help with this, make sure your bedroom is dark. Light exposure during the night disrupts our internal sleep clock.
- Routine is essential here. Try going to bed at roughly the same time each night and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Try eating a few more nutritious foods. Depression disrupts eating habits. Choosing nutrient-dense healthy food over fast food and high sugar junk is vital when fatigued.
- Make an effort to connect with loved ones. Depression can cause you to feel isolated. Connection with those who care about you can be comforting.
- Aim to exercise more. Exhaustion does make it harder to work out, but even a leisurely walk can ease depression fatigue.
- Try increasing your activities. Inactivity worsens depression fatigue. Behavioural activation is a cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) technique. The theory is that doing things will help give you the energy to do more things.
Mental illness is challenging to manage, and you should always follow the guidance of your doctor.
While medication may be part of your medical regime, self-care is essential, and following a few simple guidelines could help relieve depression fatigue.