Fatigue, characterized by an overwhelming sense of tiredness and lack of energy, isn’t just about a poor night’s sleep—it can be a significant indicator of underlying psychological stress. Anxiety, a state of ongoing worry and nervousness, often leads to fatigue, making individuals feel drained and powerless.

How does anxiety cause tiredness?

Anxiety can leave you physically tired through various means:

Constant hyperarousal

Anxiety triggers the body’s fight-or-flight response, a primitive mechanism designed to respond to threats. In a state of anxiety, this response is continuously activated, leading to a state of hyperarousal.

The body is always ‘on alert,’ causing rapid heart rate, elevated blood pressure, and increased muscle tension. Maintaining this readiness can be draining, resulting in fatigue once the adrenaline wears off.

Poor sleep quality

Anxiety often disrupts sleep patterns, making it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. People with anxiety may experience restless sleep, frequent awakenings, or distressing nightmares.

Even when sleep occurs, they wake up feeling tired. The lack of deep, quality sleep compounds fatigue, making individuals feel less refreshed after a full night’s rest.

Muscle tension

Chronic anxiety involves prolonged muscle tension. Individuals may subconsciously clench muscles or hold themselves tightly, This constant muscle tension can lead to exhaustion as the body expends energy to maintain these tight muscles, even in the absence of physical activity.

Emotional exhaustion

The emotional toll of dealing with anxiety can be just as exhausting as physical strain. The mental effort required to manage persistent worry, fear, and anxiety consumes a significant amount of energy.

Over time, this can lead to emotional burnout, where individuals feel tired, detached, and less capable of handling daily tasks.

Increased metabolic rate

Anxiety can increase the body’s metabolic rate as part of the fight-or-flight response. This increase means the body burns energy at a faster rate, which can deplete energy reserves more quickly than usual, leading to feelings of tiredness and lethargy.

Coping behaviors

People with anxiety may engage in behaviors that worsen fatigue. For example, they might consume excessive amounts of caffeine to combat tiredness, leading to a cycle of poor sleep and even more fatigue.

Additionally, skipping meals or choosing less nutritious foods due to a lack of appetite or energy can lead to inadequate nutritional support for energy production.

Impact on cognitive functions

Anxiety can also affect cognitive functions, such as concentration and memory. The constant worry can deplete mental resources, leaving a person feeling mentally fatigued.

This fatigue makes it harder to focus and process information, adding to the overall sense of tiredness.

Respiratory patterns

Anxiety can cause shallow, rapid breathing or hyperventilation, disrupting the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide balance. This imbalance can contribute to tiredness and fatigue as the body struggles to maintain optimal physiological function.

What are the common symptoms of fatigue caused by anxiety?

Fatigue caused by anxiety disorder is characterized by a blend of physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that can impact daily functioning. 

Persistent tiredness

Despite getting an adequate amount of sleep, individuals may still feel constantly weary and lack the energy to engage in their usual activities. This type of tiredness does not significantly improve with rest.

Lack of motivation

Fatigue can sap motivation, making even simple tasks feel overwhelming or unimportant. This can affect both personal and professional life, leading to procrastination and a drop in productivity.

Difficulty concentrating

Mental fatigue makes it hard to focus and maintain attention on tasks. People might find their minds wandering more than usual or struggle to complete tasks that require sustained mental effort.

Irritability

Low energy levels can increase frustration and irritability, especially in situations that require mental or physical exertion. People might find themselves more easily annoyed or quick to anger.

Physical weakness

Muscular weakness without obvious cause can be a sign of fatigue from anxiety. Individuals might feel that their bodies are heavy and hard to move, similar to the exhaustion of intense physical activity.

Sleep disturbances

Although fatigued, people with long-term anxiety may find it harder to sleep at night, and their sleep might not feel refreshing. They may also face issues like waking up frequently during the night or experiencing restless sleep.

Headaches and muscle pain

Chronic anxiety can lead to tension headaches or migraines, which are often accompanied by muscle aches and pains throughout the body, further contributing to feelings of fatigue.

Emotional exhaustion

The ongoing battle with anxious thoughts can deplete emotional reserves, leading to a state where individuals feel emotionally drained and unable to cope with additional stress.

Memory problems

Fatigue from generalized anxiety can affect short-term memory, making it difficult to recall recent information or conversations. This can add to feelings of frustration and decrease efficiency in daily tasks.

How do you overcome tiredness linked to anxiety?

Overcoming tiredness linked to stress and anxiety involves addressing both the physical symptoms and the underlying anxiety itself. 

Improve sleep hygiene

Create a calming bedtime routine, keep a consistent sleep schedule, and make your sleeping environment comfortable and conducive to rest. Avoid stimulants like caffeine and screens close to bedtime.

Regular physical activity

Engage in regular exercise, which can boost energy levels and improve mood. Activities like walking, yoga, or light aerobics can leave you feeling relaxed and are especially beneficial for reducing anxiety.

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Practice mindfulness, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises to help lower anxiety levels and calm the mind, which can improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.

Nutritional support

Eat a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods that can lead to energy crashes.

Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is crucial as dehydration can increase feelings of fatigue. Aim to keep well-hydrated throughout the day to help reduce tiredness.

Limit stimulants

Stimulants like caffeine can cause fatigue. Reduce the intake of caffeine and other stimulants that can interfere with sleep and heighten anxiety.

Seek professional help

If anxiety and fatigue are significantly impacting your life, consider talking to a mental health professional who can recommend therapies or medications to help manage anxiety symptoms effectively.

Time management

Organize your day to ensure you have time to relax and recharge. Avoid overcommitting and learn to say no to reduce stress.

What does anxiety do to your body?

Aside from fatigue, anxiety attacks can affect your body in different ways:

Cardiovascular system

Anxiety increases heart rate and blood pressure, preparing the body for quick action. Constant anxiety can lead to palpitations and strain the heart and vessels. This increases the risk of coronary disease and strokes, especially when combined with other risk factors like smoking or a poor diet.

Respiratory system

Anxiety often causes faster, shallower breathing. This can lead to shortness of breath and, in severe cases, hyperventilation, especially during panic attacks. Over time, these breathing patterns can worsen respiratory conditions like asthma.

Nervous system

Anxiety prompts the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, leading to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and tingling sensations. Chronic anxiety can disrupt neurological function, affecting mood and behavior over time.

Immune system

While short-term anxiety can boost the immune response, chronic anxiety weakens it, increasing susceptibility to infections and slowing recovery from illnesses as the body’s resources are consistently drained.

Digestive system

Anxiety can upset the stomach, causing symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain. Persistent anxiety can aggravate gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and may lead to chronic digestive problems.

Endocrine system

Chronic anxiety can alter hormone levels, disrupting the endocrine system. This can affect metabolism and overall bodily functions, leading to weight gain, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances.

Final thoughts

Overcoming fatigue linked to anxiety involves practical steps and patience. Focus on improving sleep, reducing stress, and maintaining physical health. Making these adjustments can improve your daily energy and overall well-being. If the fatigue persists and your anxiety worsens, professional guidance can provide additional support tailored to your needs. 

We provide Treatment for Anxiety across Arizona

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