Does Anxiety Make You Exhausted?
It’s quite common for tiredness to follow bouts of anxiety or panic, especially a full-blown attack. In fact, fatigue and a feeling of exhaustion or tiredness are warnings signs of both depression and anxiety. But why does anxiety make you exhausted?
This article will discuss what exhaustion is, as well as the two main types of exhaustion and their symptoms. We will also cover the effects of anxiety on exhaustion and their potential feedback loops.
What is Exhaustion?
Exhaustion, also known as fatigue, is the feeling of being extremely weak or tired. There are dozens of causes of fatigue, from running laps at the track to a long day at work.
Exhaustion can be mental, physical, or both, which means it can have any of a number of physical and mental symptoms. Which symptoms you experience may vary depending on why the exhaustion set in. For instance, the symptoms that follow a panic attack may not be the same as those that come on after a day of working in the sun.
But what is the link to anxiety, and how does anxiety make you exhausted?
There are actually several signs of exhaustion that can be caused by persistent anxiety, as well as anxiety attacks. Some of the primary symptoms of exhaustion include:
- Chronic tiredness or sleepiness
- Muscle aches or weakness
- Headaches or dizziness
- Slow reflexes
- Difficulty concentrating and impaired judgement
- Short-term memory problems
Furthermore, your mind, like your body, exercises, and experiences stress as you go about your day. This can lead to mental exhaustion. This type of exhaustion, often precipitated by some level of anxiety, may set in after a long day at work, high-concentration activities, or even an evening socializing with friends. Some of the symptoms of this type of mental exhaustion include:
- Pessimism or apathy
- Anger, irritation, or even a feeling of detachment
- Feelings of dread or hopelessness
- Lack of motivation
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
How Does Anxiety Make You Exhausted: GAD
Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is a condition that causes unrealistic or excessive worry that can make it hard to function. Some of the key symptoms of anxiety include:
- Sleep disturbances
- Muscle tension
- Difficulty concentration
By definition, generalized anxiety causes your brain to obsess, worry, and work hard. This in turn means that your body and mind experience stress, which then provokes your body to produce more cortisol over time – the stress hormone. This can produce a similar effect as a long day at work, leading to fatigue or exhaustion.
Anxiety Attacks and Exhaustion
Anxiety attacks, also known as panic attacks, are periods of such extreme anxiety that your heart races and you feel a profound loss of control. These attacks may be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Overwhelming fear, sometimes including a fear of dying
- Sweating, nausea, and dizziness
- Shortness of breath or a sense of choking
- Chest pain and heart palpitations
- Numbness or tingling
If you’ve ever had a sudden scare or gone for a run and felt your adrenaline pumping, then you’re also probably familiar with the after-effects of adrenaline: sudden exhaustion. This feeling is similar to the type of exhaustion that follows an anxiety attack.
The increased heart rate and feeling of fear or dread that comes with a panic attack induces similar levels of stress and hormones on the body. As such, when the feeling passes and your mind feels like it’s out of danger, exhaustion may set in afterwards. This may be due to your body coming down from the sudden and intense work your body was doing to keep you “safe” and on alert during your anxiety attack.
How Does Anxiety Make You Exhausted: Chronic Fatigue
Almost everyone who experiences a panic attack feels tired and exhausted afterward. However, there are some people for whom fatigue is a constant, never-ending battle. The science is unclear on why only a percentage of those with anxiety experience prolonged exhaustion.
Some studies indicate that cortisol may have a part to play with increased anxiety and vice versa. For instance, one study in The Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia, a peer-reviewed medical journal dedicated to original research, found that cortisol levels in 10- to 12-year-olds with “persistent anxiety” were higher in the morning and during awakening responses.
This suggests that anxiety can cause long-term increases in cortisol levels. Furthermore, it’s possible that higher levels of cortisol increase anxiety, which then becomes a feedback loop.
How Do You Deal with Anxiety-Related Exhaustion?
If you think your exhaustion could be linked to your anxiety, there are a few things you can do to turn things around.
Get Plenty of Rest
Anxiety and sleep patterns are linked. If you don’t sleep enough, you can increase your symptoms of anxiety, which can then make it harder to sleep. As both anxiety and a lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion, it’s important that you get enough rest every night.
Eating healthy is good for you in a lot of ways. One of the things it can do is ease the symptoms of anxiety and increase your energy, both of which can help fight exhaustion. A few quick tips to eat healthy include:
• Get plenty of fruits and vegetables
• Cut out excessive fats, carbs, and processed foods
• Make sure you're getting enough protein - but don't overdo it!
• Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to find a food plan that works for you
Find Ways to Reduce Your Stress
Eliminating unhealthy stressors in your life can help reduce your overall anxiety. In turn, this may help you feel more energized in your day. Activities such as meditation, yoga, and regular exercise all help you to reduce your anxiety long-term. Spending more time in nature can help, too.
The link between anxiety and exhaustion is one that comes with some clear connections.