Can Anxiety Make You Tired?

Tiredness is probably the most common physical symptom that anxiety can cause, and it can also be one of the most damaging to long-term health. Exhaustion can hamper the way you live, prevent you from doing the things you love, and dibiliate your everyday work. Tiredness caused by anxiety can be as mild as needing an extra nap, to keeping you in bed all day.

The anxiety symptom of tiredness can worsen mental health. In some cases, tiredness from anxiety can be a vicious cycle: my anxiety causes you to be tired, and the tiredness causes anxiety. But there are solutions to this emotional exhaustion such as coping exercises or even Therapy for anxiety with a therapist matching service to help you find the perfect match. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is the mind and body's reaction to stressful, dangerous, or unfamiliar situations. It can cause that familiar sense of uneasiness, distress, or dread you sometimes feel before a significant event. A certain level of anxiety is actually a good thing. It helps us stay alert and aware of our surroundings but, for those suffering from an anxiety disorder, these feelings can balloon to an intensity and frequency that go beyond keeping us safe. Sometimes it can get in the way of everyday life or even have you wondering how to tell if nausea is from anxiety.

There are many anxiety-related disorders, and are typically divided into three main categories:

  1. Anxiety disorders are characterized by a general feature of excessive fear of a current threat and/or worry about a future threat, and can have negative behavioral and emotional consequences.
  2. Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders are characterized by obsessive, intrusive thoughts that trigger related compulsive behaviors performed to alleviate the anxiety associated with the obsessive thoughts.
  3. Trauma and stressor related anxiety disorders are triggered by and related to the experience of a trauma or stressor. A trauma could be as tragic as an unexpected death of a loved one, a car accident, or a violent incident like war or sexual assault, and a stressor could be a life change like divorce, beginning college, or moving. This can be similar to post traumatic stress disorder. 

Why does anxiety cause tiredness?

Anxiety can affect the body in many different ways, but when it comes to tiredness, there are usually four major ways in which it is exhibited.

Sleep Disturbance

When you’re highly anxious, your sleep will likely impact your regular nightly sleep. Worries may prevent you from falling asleep at night with spinning thoughts you cannot control, and those same scenarios may continue to play out in your subconscious mind throughout the night, waking you intermittently. This causes sleep disruption. Trouble falling and staying asleep result in less sleep than you need, or broken REM cycles that, over time, lead to extreme fatigue. In extreme cases of sleep anxiety, insomnia can arise leading to extreme sleep deprivation.

Adrenaline Crashes

Remember how a certain level of anxiety can be helpful? When you’re feeling anxious without any real threat, the body incorrectly assumes you’re in danger and releases adrenaline into your system, which acts as a stimulant to help you fight or flee that danger. This is called an adrenaline rush and, with all stimulants, it typically ends in a crash. This abrupt drop in hormones can cause sudden and severe tiredness. If your anxiety is severe and constant, then it’s safe to assume that your body is also in a permanent cycle of adrenaline rush and crash, leading to feelings of total exhaustion.

Adrenal Fatigue

When your adrenal glands release adrenaline into your system, in response to physical, emotional, or psychological stress, it’s intended to be a quick fix. Adrenaline is a bandaid; it doesn’t solve the problem. So, for short periods of stress this works well. But when you’re anxious all the time your adrenal glands are constantly releasing adrenaline and, eventually, they become exhausted. Adrenal fatigue is the result of your adrenal glands shutting down, no longer able to release adrenaline in big enough quantities to get you through the day. When you’re in a state of adrenal fatigue, any physical, emotional, and psychological stress has the potential to immediately exhaust you

Mental Fatigue

Living with chronic anxiety means you’re constantly experiencing worries, stress, and negative thoughts. Coping with this barrage of mental duress usually manifests itself in either repression or denial. However, both repression and denial take huge amounts of mental energy that, like physical energy, eventually runs dry and mental fatigue starts. It can leave you feeling groggy, slow, and miserable. The effects of mental fatigue tend to compound, getting worse with time.

What are symptoms caused by anxiety?

While everyone’s anxiety is focused on different concerns, and manifests in different ways,  tiredness tends to feel similar for all.

You might experience a constant or a permanent feeling of general tiredness, often felt from the moment you wake up until the moment you go back to bed. No matter how much rest you get, you may still feel sleepy, weak, groggy, and detached. You may also feel frequent bouts of drowsiness, which is a feeling of longing for sleep, or the sensation that you may fall asleep at any moment. This can be constant and stay with you throughout the day, or it can be sporadic and come in episodes of just a few minutes. Drowsiness can be resolved in the short-term with a nap but it will often return later in the day.

Another symptom of tiredness caused by anxiety is brain fog, a type of mental fatigue and that will make you feel groggy, disoriented, forgetful, and confused. You may also notice difficulty in recalling names or words, performing simple math, and concentrating for extended periods of time. These feelings can be mild or severe, and can last anywhere from a few minutes to several months. Physically you may experience muscle weakness, which can strike anywhere in your body but will usually be in your arms and legs.

Instead of, or in addition to, an overall low hum of exhaustion, you might also experience sudden energy crashes that are more sudden and severe. These crashes often happen when you’re feeling fine and, within seconds, can leave you totally exhausted and incapacitated. A crash like this can strike at any time but they’re most common in the afternoon, and could happen after an anxiety attack or panic attack. In most cases the crash is short-lived and normal energy levels return within an hour

How can you manage tiredness caused by anxiety?

If the above description of anxiety-related tiredness and its symptoms sounds familiar, it’s time to put together an action plan for managing and mitigating.

When it comes to naps, keep them short and early in the day. Avoid taking naps within a few hours of bedtime, and try to limit them to 20 minutes each. This is the appropriate time for a power nap, which will give you a short burst of energy, but won’t affect your sleep at night. It’s also important to avoid relying on caffeine. Even though you might feel the urge to drink coffee or energy drinks every time you feel tired, it can further derail your sleep progress.

If possible, maintain a consistent sleep routine. Even if you don’t get the ‘ideal’ amount of sleep each night, it’s important to keep it consistent. Go to bed and wake up around the same time each day to help get your mind and body into a good rhythm. And, though you probably don’t want to, it’s important to take a technology break. When you feel like your mind is overworked, take a 10-minute break from screens. The goal is to remove stimuli that put even more stress on your brain. Go into a dark room, close your eyes, and just let your brain recharge. These relaxation techniques can be a beneficial stress response.

If managing your tiredness on your own feels inaccessible, it might be time to speak with an anxiety therapist to identify the root cause of the anxiety and find actionable solutions that fit your lifestyle. If you need help finding a therapist who specializes in anxiety, Advekit can help get you matched today.

Exhaustion caused by anxiety is debilitating, and you don’t have to live in a constant state of tiredness. Deciding to address the problem is the first step, and Advekit is here to help.


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