Week 1: Understanding chronic fatigue

Week 4: Healthy thinking, healthy self

Week 5: Balancing your activity patterns

Week 6: Maintaining your gains and staying well

chronic fatigue and mental health

You don’t need us to tell you that chronic fatigue can impact every aspect of life. chronic fatigue is linked to negative outcomes across several life domains, including social relationships, work and study, and other important areas of functioning. It is also linked to lower quality of life and has a detrimental effect on self-esteem. Many people feel trapped with chronic fatigue, as their freedom to take up opportunities is limited by the condition. 

It goes without saying that chronic fatigue is a barrier to emotional and psychological wellbeing. There is evidence to suggest that there are higher rates of mental health issues amongst people with chronic fatigue. Many of the common mental disorders also share symptoms with chronic fatigue. As such, the topic of chronic fatigue and mental health deserves special mention. Below, we discuss some of the mental health conditions that have been linked to chronic fatigue. As you read through, take a moment to think about the impact of chronic fatigue on your own mental health, and vice versa.  

Please note, we are not saying these conditions cause chronic fatigue, nor are we saying that chronic fatigue causes them. But for some people, multiple conditions can occur together. In such cases, one condition can make the other worse and complicate recovery. As such, it can be helpful to be aware of these common mental health problems and how they interact with chronic fatigue.

Depressive disorders

Depression is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health conditions in patients with chronic fatigue. Depressive disorders are associated with persistent low mood, feelings of sadness and loss of interest in life. Depression can worsen chronic fatigue by increasing fatigue, making you more sensitive to pain, and acting as a barrier to lifestyle change. chronic fatigue can also worsen depression, by reinforcing the cycle of low mood, impaired functioning and withdrawal.   

Anxiety disorders

There is some evidence that people with chronic fatigue are more likely to experience an anxiety disorder compared to the general population. Anxiety disorders are a type of mental health condition that often involve responding to certain things or situations with fear, worry or dread. Anxiety disorders also involve intense physical symptoms, like sweating, tension and a racing heart. Anxiety can cause chemical changes in the body that leave you feeling drained and tired. As such, anxiety can worsen symptoms of chronic fatigue. The chronic stress associated with having an illness like chronic fatigue can also worsen anxiety.  

Sleep disorders

Many people with chronic fatigue have troubles with sleep. For some, their sleep difficulties are severe enough to be diagnosed as a sleep disorder (e.g., insomnia). Sleep disorders involve problems with the quality, timing and amount of sleep that someone gets. Rates of sleep disorders are higher amongst people with chronic fatigue compared to the general population. However, because there is great overlap between symptoms of chronic fatigue and sleep disorders, doctors must be careful not to misdiagnose these conditions. Sleep disorders can worsen chronic fatigue by disrupting the normal sleep-wake cycle and impacting fatigue.