Studio 5 Contributor Dr. Liz Hale breaks down the differences.
Fatigue and a psychiatric disorder are not the same; fatigue and depression have different risk factors. However, there is a great deal of overlap between the two disorders. A year-long study of the World Health Organization involving 3,200 patients discovered that fatigued persons often feel psychologically distressed over their condition; and depressed persons often experience fatigue as a symptom of depression. Depression and fatigue can reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. According to the U.S. General Surgeon, the number of people facing depression is astounding; during their lifetime, more than 20 million Americans will suffer major depression.
Regardless of what it is or what we call it, simple fatigue or depression, there are thing you can do to feel better.
Seek Professional Assistance
This is the first line of defense; get down to the cause of the complaint! See your general practitioner and get a complete physical. There are many medical conditions that cause fatigue, such as, hypothyroidism, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis, to name only a few. Get vitamin levels checked, in particular vitamins B-12 and D, which are known to cause low energy levels when deficient. Consider taking fish oil supplementation. Great bodies of research have come form Harvard and UCLA about the benefits of fish oil on brain health.
Another significant treatment to consider is visiting with a mental health professional to ascertain if your fatigue is related to depression. Cognitive behavioral techniques involve changing thought processes which is essential in combating fatigue since clinical depression is worsened by negative thoughts and self evaluations. Fatigue encompasses both physical and mental exhaustion, therefore, eliminating repetitive and intrusive thoughts reduces the amount of energy wasted on negative emotions.
Recognize Behaviors & Symptoms
Only about a third of people with depression actually receive medical help because either they or their primary care physicians don’t recognize the symptoms; that’s a tragedy because this can be a treatable problem. Clients often mistake depression for fatigue. However, upon further investigation, they also report trouble sleeping, either too much or too little and trouble with appetite, ether too much or too little, in addition to an overwhelming feeling of sadness and suicide. If other complaints such as these accompany fatigue, then it’s not just fatigue; it’s depression. Pay attention to your own mental well being as well as to others in your family. Become educated on depression and how children and adolescents, as well as adult males, can show depression in forms of anger or acting out.
Moving here from Seattle about 6 years ago was harder than I ever thought it would be. Rebuilding social networks, professional connections, a spiritual support system, and navigating new territory was not easy. It was all I could do to make it through a full day of work. Not recognizing even in myself how depressed I was, I’ll never forget shortly after my mother passed away, calling in to work because I simply could not get out of bed….if was as if I had weights pushing my body down into the mattress of my bed. It’s not unusual for a major (or even minor event) to cause the realization of Clinical Depression to come to light.
Study & Embrace “Treatment” Options
“Treatment” can come in a number of different forms; the key is to be willing to do something new to help yourself! Become an expert on fatigue and depression. You may find yourself being drawn to the literature on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy, natural supplements, Vitamin B-12 shots, or medication. I once worked with a male client who had struggled with depression for as long as he can remember; he just hadn’t recognized it until now. While it is seldom my first line of defense, I encouraged him to visit with his physician regarding the use of anti-depressant medication. What motivated him? An interview with Terry Bradshaw. As a former star quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Terry Bradshaw reports a long and painful history of depression followed by his successful recovery following the prescribed anti-depressant, Paxil. Today, Terry Bradshaw is a champion for removing the stigma of depression and urging people to get the help they need. (And my particular client has also improved significantly from an anti-depressant.)
Use Motion on E-motion
This is tricky…because whether I am tired or depressed, the last thing I feel like doing is moving myself anywhere, especially away from the cushion on my couch! Physical activity is an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression like fatigue. Even 10 to 15 minutes of moving your body can yield a significant result. Ask for help. If motivation is the key concern, make a commitment to walk with a friend. Physical activity produces endorphins which elevate mod and diminish muscle tension caused by stress. Walking outside is a great form of exercise; exposure to sunlight and fresh air further awaken the body.
Face Facts & Remove Stigma
Mental illness is not something that happens to other people….it happens to us! It happens to me and to you; in your family and in mine. My cousin Justi, at one time, was the most beautiful woman in our family. She has struggled with depression for years, which sadly went untreated. To mask the pain of depression, Justi drank alcohol. As a family, we focused on the alcohol addiction which indeed was a HUGE problem. As Justi is willing to get professional health, she will hopefully begin to peel away the layers and face the demons that drive her to drink. An anti-depressant, individual therapy and group therapy, as well as a treatment program, are all playing a key role in her recovery.
Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.