Everyone goes through phases of feeling unmotivated or lacking in energy – it can part of life’s normal ups and downs. But if fatigue and lethargy persist without obvious cause – you're not working long stressful hours or have a new baby – then perhaps you need to consider an underlying cause.
Feeling tired and lethargic can point to multiple causes. Let's think about three main areas that affect energy levels: lifestyle issues, mental health and physical health.
Where lifestyle is concerned, think about your diet – are you eating too much, choosing heavy fatty or sugary foods over a healthy and balanced diet, are you using alcohol and drugs – these can have a negative impact on your quality of sleep, and think about whether you’re getting enough exercise.
Depression, anxiety and eating disorders can all take their toll on energy, along with other psychological factors such as experiencing stress or a bereavement.
Lastly, physical health problems can cause fatigue – vitamin D deficiency is the most common, and low iron levels (anaemia), which may make you feel tired and out of breath when you exert yourself, such as walking up a flight of stairs. Other long-term health problems can cause people to feel low in energy.
Psychological conditions and stress are more common than physical causes of low energy, and can affect anyone. You may have suffered depression or anxiety before and know the telltale signs. If not, ask yourself if you feel tense or worried all the time, the world feels a bit empty or gloomy, negative thoughts often creep in and you can’t shake them off, you feel easily overwhelmed by things you would previously have taken in your stride, your appetite or sleep have disrupted, it may be difficult to concentrate or get things started, or you’re not enjoying things you used to.
Friends, colleagues or loved ones may have noticed you’re not yourself. Eating disorders can also cause low energy due to under or inconsistent fueling. It’s best to seek help and support as early as you can from your doctor if any of these symptoms ring true.
If you’ve worked to improve any of the above lifestyle issues and still not seen an improvement after a couple of weeks in your energy levels, then book a routine appointment with your doctor. They will ask about your symptoms and may consider examining you or sending you for blood tests. They may consider instead that this is likely to be a mental health disorder, and will discuss avenues to help you back to feeling yourself, such as medications or talking therapy.
Libido is your sex drive and everyone’s has their own "normal" level of energy and desire towards sex. Loss of libido can be caused by different things, but depression or stress can certainly take its toll. If this is the likely cause, try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Open up to your partner, so that you’re not trying to make sense of it alone. Addressing any underlying cause such as depression will help get things back on track, although it needs time and patience. Your doctor is also used to discussing these things and can be a good sounding board, should you feel you need to understand more, or are worried that mental health is not the cause.
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