Are You Lacking Energy? It Might Be Anergia
By: Ashley Brown
Updated November 18, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC
If you often find yourself without energy, there may be something else going on. You could have a condition known as anergia, which indicates that you need more than a little caffeine to help you through your day. However, it is something that can be addressed, so it isn't a condition that has to chronically plague you. Keep reading for information on this concept and what you can do about it.
What is Anergia?
The definition of anergia is "an abnormal lack of energy" both mentally and physically. Scientifically, anergia can be a "diminished or absent sensitivity to commonly used antigens." It is not an illness in its own right, but often a symptom of either depression or schizophrenia.
While many have days where they feel lethargic, anergia occurs when this state becomes chronic. Due to constant fatigue, many struggle to handle or complete even the simplest of tasks. Often people around those with anergia will classify them as lazy or apathetic toward jobs, activities, and social lives, when the truth is that they are simply unable to remove themselves from the state of lethargy to engage in anything meaningfully. There are around 20 million people that suffer from chronic fatigue, so you aren't alone if you experience it.
Depression and Anergia
Often, those with depression suffer from anergia. Have you ever heard the saying about not having a reason to get out of bed in the morning? Well, many with depression find this to be accurate and physically will not have the energy to get out of bed. Often those with anergic depression become uninterested in what previously brought them joy. At times, a diagnosis can be complicated as those with anergic depression do not always show "traditional" signs of depression. Instead, they simply seem lazy to some when, of course, the disinterest is deeply psychological.
Anergic depression is referred to as a type of "atypical depression," which is connected to the ability to be happier, regardless of how slight, when positive events occur in one's life while still having underlying depression. For example, even if one is depressed and lethargic throughout the day, they may feel slightly better when their favorite show comes on, their spouse comes home from work, or they receive a letter from a friend. Sometimes, anergia will be used to help in the diagnosis of depression. For an official diagnosis, a certain number of symptoms need to be present - and anergia can count as one.
If you are suffering from depression and often feel fatigued, make sure you speak to your doctor or psychologist about these symptoms.
What Else Causes Anergia?
Narcolepsy, a chronic sleep disorder, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, which are psychological disorders, have also been shown to prompt anergia. It can be a symptom of dysthymia as well, which is a more mild form of depression; however, it has shown to be very long-lasting. Even when symptoms of these disorders are not as severe, anergia can persist and affect patient's lives dramatically.
There are also specific health issues that may result in anergia. Many heart conditions can cause this abnormal lack of energy, most often acute coronary syndromes. Anemia, a lack of sufficient healthy red blood cells, frequently induces this chronic lethargic state, as does chronic fatigue syndrome. If the thyroid is incapable of producing sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, a condition that is referred to as hypothyroidism, anergia may often be experienced. When the elderly experience medical illnesses, anergia most frequently follows.
From time to time, certain medications can also be the culprits of anergia; however, depending on how crucial that medication is in one's health regimen, they may have to find another treatment for anergia instead of simply stopping the drug. Antidepressants often cause the condition, but can usually be swapped for an equally effective medication that won't cause the same side effect.
Occasionally, substance addiction elicits anergia. For some, anergia is developed while taking the substance, while for others it occurs during withdrawal.
While it may seem counterintuitive, lack of exercise or activity can make you more tired and lead to anergia. Trouble sleeping, even without chronic sleep disorder, can also result as a symptom.
Effects of Anergia
The chronic lethargy of anergia can be intensely debilitating for those who suffer from it. When faced with an inability to summon the energy to perform daily tasks, many fall further into the potentially pre-existing depression. Friends and family often look down upon them for being "lazy," leading to further anxiety and depression. Due to intense fatigue, it can often be difficult for those with anergia to perform well within their occupations, sometimes being fired and struggling with monetary issues can result. It also takes a toll on the sufferer's physical health as they cannot force themselves to exercise or be active.
Because of inactivity, many will suffer from dietary issues. If food is present in their home, many will eat copious amounts, sometimes resulting in obesity or diabetes. If food is not present, anergia will often bar people from going to the grocery store or out to eat so that meals will be skipped, leading to unhealthy weight loss and occasionally anemia. This worsens the anergia because without proper nutrients within the body, energy simply cannot be created.
Can Anergia Be Treated?
Yes, and it is extremely important to seek treatment, as anergia left alone can cause more severe and long-lasting depression, as well as various psychological and physical health problems. If you feel you might have anergia, speak to your doctor immediately. If you have anergia, it can certainly be cured; however, doctors will usually attack what is causing it, instead of the anergia itself. For example, if depression is causing your anergia, instead of finding ways to get you out of the lethargic state, a psychiatrist might prescribe you an SSRI to treat your depression, which in turn should relieve the anergia. These medications act in a way that sort out the chemicals in the brain that may be unbalanced, leading to mental illness.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also common in treating depression, especially when specific mindsets or actions trigger episodes. Many with anergia avoid completing daily tasks that are often necessary, such as cleaning, showering, or exercising. Therefore, cognitive behavioral therapy can also help them analyze why they are incapable of completing a task, and can help them to change the mindset behind their approach, ideally enabling them to perform it in the future.
Group therapy can also be useful as it enables those with anergia to see that others are either currently going through what they are or have in the past, so they will no longer feel alone. Most importantly, those with anergia can share how they make breakthroughs or overcome their lethargic states, empowering others in the room to do the same. When someone is feeling downtrodden or incapable, group therapy offers a support system for many who understand it first-hand.
Motivational Interviewing, or counseling via attempting to achieve goals, has also been shown to be useful for those with anergia. This method does not necessarily treat the depression, as it is more targeted more toward getting patients to overcome their boundaries; however, it is effective in battling certain effects of anergia.
Sometimes, if the cause does not appear to be psychological, blood tests will be ordered to test if there is an issue such as anemia. If the anergia persists, occasionally stimulants will be prescribed to aid in returning to healthy levels of energy. Normally, these will coincide with other medications or treatments.
What Else Can I Do?
Aside from medication, certain lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet or regular exercise, can also aid in relieving anergia. Exercise can reduce lethargy by helping you sleep at night. When you are naturally tired out during the day, your sleep routines will become more regular, which fights against anergia. This exercise does not even have to be particularly difficult - you can pick your favorite! Just thirty minutes of boosting your heart rate per day is proven to offer significant benefits. However, don't take your jog near bedtime and refrain from exercising too close to the time you plan to sleep as it will energize you at the wrong time and disrupt your sleep cycle.
Reducing fat in your diet can help keep you active. Amp up your healthy carbs to stay energized. Plus, make sure you're getting whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and stay away from the unhealthy carbs - pasta, candy, soda, etc. Also, make sure you're eating at regular times throughout the day and refrain from eating too close to bedtime, as it can disrupt your sleep. Of course, don't consume caffeine when it affects your sleep.
Sometimes activities as simple as spending time with friends and family, going outside, or playing a game can offer bursts of energy that, if done often enough, will offer relief from anergia. It is good to have a routine, to keep things running smoothly. Your sleep habits themselves play a big role as well. Avoid using your computer or phone right before sleeping, and make sure your room is quiet and dark.
If you think you might be suffering from the anergia, feel free to talk to one of our many counselors online at BetterHelp. They can help you analyze the condition, pinpoint what is causing it, and figure out the most effective treatment plan. Below are some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people who have been helped.
"Dr. Munyan actually cares and is very knowledgeable. He checks up on you multiple times even if you don't respond. That means so much for someone like me. He doesn't push too much but just enough to have a proactive and positive conversation that always ends in me making a plan and finding newfound motivation to keep at it."
"I put off finding a therapist for a long time. I dreaded my first conversation with Neil and all the awkward, clunky explanations I'd have to give about my depression and anxiety. All of the things that felt like dirty little secrets that caused me so much pain. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the way Neil accurately picked up on what I was saying and gave me more insight into how my brain was working. It made my issue feel so much less of a personal problem and more of a universal problem we could examine together. He always gives me a thoughtful response within a day or two any time I send a message. I actually think we've made more progress in between sessions just by being able to communicate things that are coming up in real time. Neil is intelligent and kind. I really appreciate his communication style and highly recommend him."
Anergia is an issue that may be caused by a condition you already have and not just because you are lazy. If you suffer from chronic tiredness, you owe it to yourself to talk to someone and see what is going on. You can find your sense of energy again - all you need are the right tools. Take the first step today.
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