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April 4, 2024

Why is PTSD So Exhausting?

PTSD can cause fatigue, a debilitating symptom that transcends ordinary tiredness, and affect millions worldwide. We delve into the physical and emotional aspects of PTSD-induced exhaustion, and how trauma impacts energy levels and sleep, contributing to a sense of depletion.

Sofia Noori, MD, MPH
Why is PTSD So Exhausting?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental health condition that affects millions of people around the world. It is often triggered by a traumatic event such as physical or sexual assault, natural disaster, or witnessing a life-threatening incident. While most people experience a range of emotions after a traumatic event, those with PTSD continue to live with intense, distressing symptoms that can significantly impact their daily lives.

One of the most overwhelming symptoms of PTSD is fatigue. Individuals with PTSD often find themselves battling an extreme exhaustion that goes beyond ordinary tiredness. This article will delve into the concept of fatigue in PTSD, exploring its physical and emotional aspects, as well as its impact on energy levels and sleep patterns.

Understanding the concept of fatigue in PTSD

Fatigue in PTSD is not simply feeling tired after a long day; it is a deep and pervasive exhaustion that can make even the simplest tasks feel insurmountable. This fatigue is often caused by the constant state of hypervigilance and anxiety that individuals with PTSD experience. Their minds and bodies are constantly on high alert, which drains their energy reserves and leaves them feeling depleted.

Differentiating between physical and emotional fatigue

It is important to differentiate between physical and emotional fatigue when it comes to PTSD. Physical fatigue refers to the tiredness that comes from physical exertion or lack of sleep. Emotional fatigue, on the other hand, is the result of the intense emotional and psychological toll that trauma takes on an individual.

While physical fatigue can be alleviated through rest and sleep, emotional fatigue is more complex. It involves feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and a general lack of motivation. It is a deep weariness that pervades every aspect of an individual's life.

The impact of trauma on energy levels and sleep patterns

Trauma has a profound impact on energy levels and sleep patterns. Individuals with PTSD often experience frequent nightmares and insomnia, making it difficult for them to get a good night's sleep. This lack of quality sleep further exacerbates their fatigue, leaving them feeling even more drained and exhausted.

Additionally, the constant hypervigilance and anxiety associated with PTSD consume a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy. The brain is constantly on high alert, scanning the environment for potential threats. This heightened state of arousal depletes energy reserves and makes it challenging for individuals with PTSD to sustain their energy levels throughout the day.

Exploring the emotional and psychological toll of PTSD fatigue

PTSD fatigue takes a significant emotional and psychological toll: the constant exhaustion can lead to feelings of frustration, irritability, and anger. It can also contribute to a sense of isolation and detachment from others, as individuals with PTSD may not have the energy to engage in social activities or maintain relationships.

Furthermore, the emotional and psychological toll of PTSD fatigue can impact an individual's self-esteem and self-worth. They may feel inadequate and blame themselves for their lack of energy and motivation. This negative self-perception can further perpetuate the cycle of fatigue and emotional distress.

Strategies for managing and coping with PTSD fatigue

While PTSD fatigue can feel overwhelming, there are strategies that individuals can employ to manage and cope with this debilitating symptom. It is important to develop a self-care routine that prioritizes rest and relaxation. This may involve setting boundaries, practicing good sleep hygiene, and engaging in activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga or meditation.

Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help manage fatigue. This includes eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding substances such as alcohol and caffeine that can disrupt sleep patterns.

Seeking professional help for PTSD-related exhaustion

If PTSD fatigue becomes unmanageable and significantly impacts an individual's daily life, it is crucial to seek professional help. Mental health professionals, such as therapists or counselors, can provide guidance and support in navigating the challenges of PTSD fatigue. They can also help individuals develop coping mechanisms and strategies to regain their energy and improve their overall well-being.

"Some patients who are experiencing higher levels of fatigue from the weight of their symptoms may be more likely to report suicidal ideation," says Nema therapist Chloe Findley, LPC. “But there is hope. Trauma survivors can manage their exhaustion by prioritizing stress management, engaging in social activities, talking to their therapist about their suicidal thoughts—and know that suicidal ideation typically decreases over the course of treatment.”

PTSD fatigue is a complex and overwhelming symptom that can significantly impact the lives of individuals affected by this debilitating disorder. By understanding fatigue in PTSD, differentiating between physical and emotional fatigue, and exploring the impact of trauma on energy levels and sleep patterns, individuals can begin to comprehend the depth of this exhaustion.

It is important to remember that there are strategies for managing and coping with PTSD fatigue, including seeking professional help and implementing self-care practices. By empowering individuals with the knowledge and tools to overcome PTSD fatigue, we can support them in reclaiming their lives and finding a renewed sense of energy and well-being.

If PTSD challenges you or someone close to your heart, Nema is here with open arms. Our approach to treatment is both compassionate and evidence-based, ensuring trauma survivors can embark on a healing journey that’s both effective and filled with care. Click here to schedule a free consultation to see how we can help.