Causes of Extreme Fatigue

Although the causes of extreme fatigue may be different for everyone, the effects people experience are quite similar. In essence, you feel as though you're "running on empty" and every day is a struggle. No matter what is causing your constant fatigue, it's likely robbing joy from your days and can bring your life to a standstill. 

Many times a constant feeling of exhaustion can be caused by things you do everyday as part of your routine - without awareness they are causing fatigue. Examples include:

Taking Certain Medications

Some medicines can cause drowsiness, or even extreme sleepiness. The most common ones include antihistamines, bronchodilators such as theophylline (used to treat asthma and other lung conditions), anti-arrhythmia drugs used for certain heart problems, blood-pressure medications, some antibiotics, and even nicotine patches/gum.

Other medications for psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety and, ironically, many insomnia medications - including over-the-counter sleep aids.


Many of us are so busy that we tend to think of sleep as a luxury rather than the necessity that it really is. Lifestyle choices such as staying up late, working too hard, not getting enough exercise, eating the wrong foods, drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks, or smoking can all be causes of fatigue.

Medical Conditions

There are a host of different illnesses and diseases that can result in ongoing and severe fatigue. In addition to the sleep disorder, narcolepsy, which causes bouts of overwhelming sleepiness, other physical conditions which can produce significant fatigue. They include:

  • Anemia
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Lyme Disease
  • Chronic Hepatitis
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Thyroid problems
    • Obesity
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Liver failure
    • Emphysema
    • Cancer
    • Epilepsy
    • Diabetes

    Although they're not considered illnesses, both pregnancy and menopause can also be accompanied by feelings of a draining fatigue. In addition, some psychological conditions including schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) and grief can make you feel chronically exhausted. Having an autoimmune disease such as Lupus or HIV also puts you at risk of extreme fatigue.

    Injury or Surgery

    If you've been injured or have had surgery, these can also be causes of extreme fatigue. The trauma and stress to your body, plus living with pain (short term or chronic) are additional and often related causes of fatigue.

    Most of the causes of extreme fatigue above are either illnesses or conditions, which result in feelings of exhaustion. In these cases, the fatigue is a symptom of an underlying health problem or disorder, and not a condition in itself.

    But sometimes extreme fatigue isn't related to a separate illness, lifestyle choice, or health issue.

    If you've felt constantly exhausted, all day, for at least 6 months, and your doctor has ruled out any physical or psychiatric cause for your extreme fatigue - then you may be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome(CFS).

    This condition is also often known as chronic Epstein Barr Virus Syndrome, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, post-viral fatigue syndrome, and immune dysfunction syndrome. The many names given to this condition, reflects it's complexity.

    Only in recent years has chronic fatigue experienced by people without underlying health issues been taken seriously and accepted as a physiological condition rather than a psychological one. For information on recognizing and treating CFS, click here.

    So, if you're constantly asking wondering why you are always so tired, make an appointment with your doctor and take a close look at your diet and lifestyle. Ruling out (or getting treatment for) any physiological causes of fatigue and making positive changes in your daily routine will help you get back on track increasing your energy levels. 

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