A variety of interventions may be helpful when treating fatigue, but the treatment for fatigue depends on its cause. If fatigue is due to a medical condition, medications used to treat that medical issue may alleviate the fatigue; meanwhile, if the fatigue is caused by depression or another mental health issue, therapy could prove beneficial.
When choosing which type of therapy is best for treating fatigue, a therapist will consider its possible causes. If it appears the fatigue is due to a medical condition, the therapist may refer their client to a medical specialist who can address the physical causes of fatigue.
In some cases, people may come to therapy to address fatigue itself. Therapists may help clients address parts of their lifestyle that contribute to the fatigue, such as burnout, substance use, and eating habits. The therapeutic approach a mental health professional uses to treat the fatigue will depend on which issue is contributing to the fatigue. For instance, a therapist may help their client learn skills to better manage stress, recommend an addiction recovery program, or work with them to develop a functional self-care routine.
If an individual’s fatigue is worsened by chaotic or unbalanced family dynamics, a couples or family therapist may work with the partner or family of the fatigued person to address any relationship issues or power imbalances contributing to the fatigue.
When addressing fatigue as a symptom of a condition such as anxiety or depression, individual therapy may be beneficial. In these cases, therapy will most likely focus on managing the underlying mental health issue in order to alleviate fatigue as a symptom.
There is no cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, and its cause is still unknown. However, it is often treated with a combination of antidepressants, physical therapy or exercise, and counseling. Some people find their CFS symptoms improve when they take sleep medication, antidepressants, or antianxiety medication, but these have not found to cure the condition.
Therapy for chronic fatigue syndrome often addresses the psychological and mental health effects of the condition and may help people learn to manage it. If the anxiety and/or depression that accompanies CFS also developed independently from it, mental health treatment may help resolve the anxiety or depression and may reduce the overall impact of CFS.
Counseling can also be used to help someone manage chronic pain or other physical symptoms of the condition. Cognitive forms of therapy may help people learn skills for managing intense pain. Massage, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques may help people manage chronic pain caused by CFS on a daily basis.
Lifestyle changes and self-care can also help reduce fatigue. Remedies for fighting fatigue on a day-to-day basis include:
- Practicing yoga. Yoga has been found to reduce fatigue and improve sleep quality in people who have overcome cancer.
- Getting enough sleep. If you can connect your fatigue to a lack of sleep, improving your sleep hygiene may help clear up the fatigue.
- Maintaining a well-balanced diet. Crash diets can negatively affect sleep, causing fatigue. Eating foods that nourish the body and regulate the mood may lessen fatigue.
- Making time for exercise. Although being fatigued can make it difficult to find the energy for exercise, physical activity can improve sleep and increase energy. It is recommended that people who have fatigue gradually increase their physical activity level.
- Taking some time alone. For introverts, spending the bulk of their time with others can be draining, and this may lead to fatigue. People who are energized by alone time may need to spend some time in a solitary activity such as taking a walk, reading, or listening to music to reduce fatigue.
- Talking to a friend. Extroverts and others who gain energy from spending time with loved ones may find that doing so makes them feel less fatigued.
- Staying hydrated. Drinking more water while cutting down on alcohol and caffeine consumption may lead to a boost in energy levels.
When fatigue persists despite your best efforts, talking to a therapist or seeing your health care provider is often a good next step.
Co-occurring fatigue and depression: Benjamin, 46, has been feeling constantly tired for months. His fatigue is getting to the point where he cannot focus on his work and is too tired to participate in social events he used to enjoy. He has tried getting more sleep at night, but no matter how much sleep he gets, his energy during the day does not seem to improve. Looking for answers, Benjamin set up an appointment with his medical doctor, but none of the tests done on him indicate a direct medical cause. Upon hearing about Benjamin's loss interest in activities he used to enjoy and difficulty focusing at work, his doctor refers him to a therapist. After speaking with his therapist, Benjamin is diagnosed with depression. He learns that much of his fatigue seems to be due to his depression. By taking daily nature walks, meditating, and talking with his therapist, Benjamin learns how to effectively cope with and minimize his depression, and his energy slowly begins to return.
- Boehm, K., Ostermann, T., Milazzo, S., & Büssing, A. (2012, September 6). Effects of yoga interventions on fatigue: A meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012(2012). doi:10.1155/2012/124703
- Marin, H. & Menza, M. A. (2004). Specific treatment of residual fatigue in depressed patients. Psychiatry (Edgemont), 2(1), 12-18. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3012615
- Nordqvist, C. (2017, August 15). Fatigue: Why am I so tired and what can I do about it? Retrieved from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248002.php
- Sleep and tiredness. (2018, September 3). Retrieved from https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/self-help-tips-to-fight-fatigue