Are you Tired; or Suffering Fatigue?

by Leisa on April 3, 2012

In the area of fatigue issues, I’ve learnt through working with hundreds of patients, how important it is to be able to differentiate between being tired and suffering from “fatigue”.

Rather than exaggerating how tired they are, I find that many people grossly underestimate how bad they truly feel. I hear sentences like “I’m sorry, I’m just too lazy to exercise”, or “Of course I’m a bit tired, I work and have kids…” – and it can take some targeted questioning to get underneath the person’s habits of glossing over what can be very important symptoms.

Just this morning I was talking with one of my staff about a period of time in her life when she was bed-ridden at least sixteen hours a day with unrelenting fatigue, and the specialist she saw basically gave her the prescription to “stop laying around in bed” as the answer to her recovery.

Now I can’t say that I’ve ever met anyone who chooses to lay around in bed all day for months if not years on end, just because they’re “lazy”. Who wants that kind of life? When there are issues of fatigue – and no, it doesn’t have to be so bad you are bedridden – deeper exploration is always warranted.

The trouble with some of these problems (like an underactive thyroid, or adrenal insufficiency) is that the person often looks “normal”, and they don’t have a “disease” to name that explains to people why they are unwell. Quite often they gloss over how they really feel, describing themselves as lazy, tired, or stressed, when in actual fact it can be a real struggle for them to get through each day.

Being tired is normally the result of a lifestyle out of balance – working long hours, not sleeping enough, making poor food choices or having situations of high stress in your life – however when these issues are resolved, the tiredness reverses as well.

In fatigue states, this doesn’t happen. Often people with fatigue will wake unrefreshed even after a long sleep, they have trouble getting going of a morning and can rely on artificial boosts like coffee or sugar. The fatigue is usually relentless and not tied into anything that they do or don’t do during the day, or to their lifestyle. Many people find that they phase out activities in their life that are not absolutely essential, slowly reducing what they do each day so that they can cope.

The coping strategies become a way of life and after time people forget what it is like to be “normal” and have loads of energy to burn.

So if you are describing yourself as “tired” or “lazy” or making excuses as to why you don’t socialise so much anymore, maybe it’s time to check out whether you really are suffering from genuine fatigue, and something more is going on that needs to be investigated and then treated properly.  For more information on testing adrenal function, see



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