Karen Fratti
April 13, 2018 4:48 pm
Jamie Grill, Getty Images

Many of us have probably told someone recently how “exhausted” we were by work, by dating, by Twitter, or just life in general recently. But there’s a huge difference between being plain old tired and actual fatigue and it’s good to know what it is because there are times when exhaustion is something way more serious than just wishing you could hit the snooze button a few more times every morning. Being tired is totally normal, especially since we all probably work long hours and have social lives to attend to. When we’re tired, a good night’s sleep or a weekend spent on the couch in front the television can usually bring our normal energy levels back.

But if you’ve tried all the DIY ways to get more energy, such as going to bed a little earlier, drinking enough water and eating well, and not overextending yourself on the weekends, and still have trouble mustering the energy to get out of bed or do anything extra, it could be a case of exhaustion. Exhaustion can be a side effect of some serious mental and physical health problems, so you want to make sure you’re not just brushing off your fatigue as “normal.” As women, we tend to ignore our pains and discomforts in order to just “get on with it,” but being exhausted is serious enough to talk to your doctor about.

First, it’s important to know what exhaustion and fatigue *actually* are.

According to Psychology Today, fatigue doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes some time to really build up. “You may feel a lack energy and feel tired most days. In the later stages, you feel physically and emotionally exhausted, drained, and depleted, and you may feel a sense of dread for what lies ahead on any given day,” Sherrie Bourg Carter writes. You might also feel dizzy, muscle aches, get headaches more than usual, feel like you can’t really make decisions and are slow on the draw, along with feeling “moody” and tired AF.

These could all be signs that you’re depressed or even that you hate your job, since burnout is a real thing. But exhaustion is also a major symptom of some other health issues. Here are a few of them.

1You’re not really hungry either.

Exhaustion and lack of appetite usually go together. It’s hard to fathom getting out the pots and pans and whipping something when you’re fatigued or pulling on your party clothes and heading out to dinner. But if your loss of appetite makes it so that you’re not even interested in finishing your favorite meal and are actually dropping some pounds, the dangerous combo of fatigue and loss of appetite could be a sign of chronic kidney and liver problems, anemia, and heart disease, according to Livestrong.

2You’re also in a really dark place.

When you’re exhausted, a lot of these symptoms can blend together. But you know the difference between being tired and cranky and tired and feeling really depressed. Fatigue doesn’t cause depression, and depression doesn’t cause fatigue, but exhaustion, believe it or not, can mess with your sleep patterns (yes, even if all you want to do is sleep) and the two really play off of each other, according to Psych Central. If you already see a mental health professional and the exhaustion feels new, don’t be afraid to bring it up to ensure that you’re doing all you can do feel better or if maybe it’s a symptom of some medication, according to the MayoClinic.

3It’s getting in the way of your life.

Chronic fatigue means that you literally never stop feeling exhausted and sometimes it’s debilitating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are four times more likely than men to develop it but up to 2.5 million people might not even know that they have it and 90 percent of people with chronic fatigue syndrome aren’t properly diagnosed. One woman with CFS told Prevention about her struggle with the condition, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by a physician that I just need to get more sleep or take my vitamins, even though I’ve had a formal diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome for over 20 years.”

So don’t let your doctor brush it off as you just “feeling tired” or find some other way to explain your aches, pains, and emotional side effects, which happens more than you might think when women present symptoms to a doctor. Keep talking about your symptoms until you feel better.

4You also snore.

If you’re exhausted, you could have a sleep apnea. Sleep apnea’s are hard to diagnose — you need to see a sleep specialist or let a partner tell you that you’re snoring throughout the night. It’s not just snoring though, people with a sleep apnea have shallow breathing that can cause a pause in breathing while you sleep and then are resolved with a cough or snort.

Sleep apnea can lead to heart conditions, high blood pressure, and, yes, chronic fatigue, according to the National Institute of Health. You definitely want to get a sleep apnea treated by a specialist before it gets worse. Fatigue is unfortunately all too common, but since it can be a sign of something more serious, it’s worth taking seriously.

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