Anergia: When Is a Lack of Energy Cause for Concern?

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Everyone feels tired from time to time, but anergia, which is a lack of energy, is characterized by more persistent and extreme fatigue that doesn’t necessarily result from exertion. Anergia is not a psychological or medical condition, but it’s a possible symptom of several conditions.

Here, we’ll look at some of the mental health and medical conditions that cause anergia, the impacts anergia can have, and how and when to seek help for anergia.

What Causes Anergia?

Anergia is a possible symptom of many conditions. As such, anergia can have a number of causes, depending on the condition you are experiencing. It’s important to understand that anergia is more than simply feeling tired. It involves severe feelings of fatigue that persist over a period of weeks or months. The fatigue isn’t caused by common triggers of exhaustion, like lack of sleep or physical overextension.

Anergia can be caused by several different health conditions and can also have psychiatric origins. Sometimes anergia is caused by a combination of factors. For example, living with a medical condition like acute coronary syndrome can cause anergia. Moreover, people who have acute coronary syndrome also have an increased risk of depression, which can include anergia as a symptom.

Other conditions that can cause anergia include:

  • Psychiatric disorders, like disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Anemia
  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Dementia
  • Sleep apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Conditions that cause anergia can’t be self-diagnosed. If you have severe, ongoing fatigue, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician. They will take your medical history examine you and likely perform diagnostic testing. If they determine that your anergia symptoms are likely caused by a medical or psychiatric condition, they will refer you to the appropriate clinician who can help you get the help you need.

Anergia and Mental Health

Anergia is a symptom of quite a few psychiatric conditions, such as:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Depressive episodes in bipolar disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Substance use disorders
  • Somatic symptom disorder

Anergia is a common symptom in elderly people, often linked to health conditions that are more common as people age, as well as sleep issues and cognitive decline. However, late-life depression is a common cause of anergia in older people, and one that’s often overlooked.

Perhaps the most common psychiatric cause of anergia is depression. A 2016 study found when people visit their primary care provider with symptoms of extreme fatigue, the most common cause is depression. In the study, 18.5% of patients visiting their provider with this complaint were diagnosed with depression. This diagnosis was more common than medical causes like anemia or a thyroid disorder.

Anergia is a main symptom of depressive disorders. People with depression often experience extreme exhaustion, and find that they move slower. They also feel unmotivated, unable to enjoy things, and may frequently decide not to participate in activities that require physical exertion.

Other depression symptoms that may accompany anergia include:

  • Feeling sad, downcast, and empty inside
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Wanting to sleep all the time, and not wanting to wake up in the morning
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite; weight gain or weight loss
  • Thoughts of suicide

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Impact of Anergia

Anergia doesn’t just make you feel tired. People who are simply tired will feel better after a nap or a decent night’s sleep. But if you have anergia, your fatigue persists for long periods of time, and doesn’t generally improve—or at least doesn’t improve dramatically—when you get more sleep.

As such, anergia can affect all facets of your life, and can do so on an ongoing basis. The way that anergia impacts people will vary from one person to another and will depend greatly on what’s causing the anergia.

Some of the most common impacts of anergia include:

  • Lack of energy to participate in activities you previously enjoyed
  • Trouble focusing
  • Trouble working, socializing, and functioning on a day-to-day basis
  • Finding even the simplest activities challenging; this may include activities such as brushing your teeth and getting out of bed in the morning
  • You may have a decreased sex drive

When to Seek Help

Extreme fatigue that lasts a few days and gets better with sleep, relaxation, and other common sense solutions, doesn’t require medical or psychiatric attention. But anergia that lasts over a period of weeks or months, and that makes it difficult for you to function, should be brought to the attention of a healthcare professional.

In particular, depression—which is one of the most common causes of anergia—is diagnosed when your symptoms have been present for at least two weeks and are significantly impacting your life.

How Is Anergia Treated?

Treatments for anergia depend on the cause. If a medical condition is causing your anergia, your provider will recommend a treatment plan to manage your condition. Treatment options may include medications, surgeries, and lifestyle modifications.

When it comes to treating depressive disorders, the best treatment usually involves a combination of talk therapy and medication.

Therapy For Depression

There are several psychotherapy approaches that have been found helpful in the management of depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has a large evidence base for its effectiveness in treating depression. CBT involves becoming more aware of the thought and behavior patterns contributing to your depression, and then learning to manage them in more healthy ways. Other types of therapy used to treat depression include behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, supportive therapy, and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT).

Medications For Depression

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), are what are most commonly prescribed for depression. These medications usually take 4-8 weeks to fully work. Different antidepressants work for different individuals, and it’s important to work with your provider to find the best antidepressant or medication combination for your needs.

Coping With Anergia

If you are experiencing anergia, it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and treat the underlying cause. Otherwise, your symptoms may linger. That said, there are certain lifestyle approaches that can be used in conjunction with medical and psychiatric treatment, to help increase your energy.

Here are some things to consider:

  • When you are low in energy, exercise may feel impossible, but exercise actually can increase your energy levels in the long run
  • Reducing alcohol can help with symptoms of anergia
  • Caffeine may help you when you are feeling low in energy, but it can also backfire and make you more exhausted in the long run; consider reducing caffeine when you have anergia
  • Eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals (every 3-4 hours) to keep up your energy levels
  • Increasing your water intake if you are dehydrated can give you more energy
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule and reduce stimulating activities before bedtime, such as screen time, will help with your anergia symptoms
11 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Wendy Wisner
Wendy Wisner is a health and parenting writer, lactation consultant (IBCLC), and mom to two awesome sons.