Do You Have Persistent Low Energy? Common Causes And How To Find Help

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated April 24, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

This article is not a substitute for individual medical advice or diagnosis. Please discuss your symptoms with your doctor for individualized guidance and care.

When we think of persistent low energy and the potential reasons, many of the culprits that come to mind might be physical. However, several different mental health conditions list low energy as a possible sign or symptom as well. In this article, we’ll look at some mental health conditions or disorders that list low energy as a primary symptom and what you can you do to feel more energized.

Getty
Do you constantly feel exhausted?

What causes low energy?

Several mental health conditions list low energy as a primary symptom. Here are some of the most common mental health conditions and concerns that cause low energy or fatigue. 

Depression

Low energy, tiredness, fatigue, or decreased efficiency in routine tasks are common signs of depression. An individual living with depression may have trouble with self-care activities; experience difficulty functioning at work, school, and other areas of life; or experience changes in sleep, such as sleeping more or less than usual. There are different types of depression a person can live with, such as major depressive disorder (MDD), persistent depressive disorder (PDD), postpartum depression, and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). With all of these diagnoses, low energy is both possible and common. Other disorders, like bipolar disorder (characterized by alternating periods of hypomania or mania and depression), may also lead to a depressive episode during which low energy is a symptom.

Anxiety disorders 

Like depressive disorders, various anxiety disorders – such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – can come with low energy, tiring easily, and fatigue. It’s a primary symptom. To be diagnosed with GAD, the most common anxiety disorder, you must experience three or more of the following symptoms, not better attributed to another cause:

  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up/on edge.
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Disrupted sleep (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)
  • Mind going blank, or trouble concentrating/focusing
  • Muscle tension
  • Irritability

Emotional or psychological symptoms of anxiety, like excessive worry, can take a great deal of energy and may contribute to the mental and physical fatigue someone feels. Trouble sleeping, too, can worsen this symptom and may further exacerbate other signs of anxiety.

Stress

Though stress isn’t a diagnosable mental health condition, it can seriously impact your mental and physical health. It may lead to low energy and other symptoms affecting a person’s life, like irritability. Stress management is vital for overall health, whether or not someone lives with a diagnosable mental or physical illness. Stress can also worsen existing health conditions and if left unaddressed, persistent stress can lead to potentially severe consequences.

Other concerns and conditions

Other mental health conditions can lead to low energy, fatigue, or tiredness, even if low energy isn’t a primary symptom. For example, many of those who live with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) express feeling tired or experiencing low energy. PTSD, grief, and eating disorders* can also lead to low energy. 

*Eating disorders are serious and can affect anyone. If you or someone you know is experiencing signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, call or text the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) helpline at 1-800-931-2237. 

Mental health conditions also increase the likelihood that someone will develop chronic fatigue. Sleep disorders, too, are more common in those with a range of different mental health conditions. If you have a mental health condition or think that you might, it’s vital to reach out to a medical or mental health professional who can help.

Getty/AnnaStills

Ruling out physical causes 

Low energy can be caused by matters related to physical health. A chronic illness may make you tired, as can nutrient deficiencies and other concerns. Make sure to talk with your doctor to rule out any potential physical causes of low energy, such as anemia, a B12 deficiency, or abnormal thyroid levels – all of which can impact your mental well-being and your physical health.

It’s essential that these things be addressed, whether or not there are co-occurring mental health concerns. A quick blood test can check for many common physical causes of fatigue, like nutrient deficiencies. 

Treatment options for low energy

Research suggests that any of the following interventions can usually help with the management of symptoms seen in various mental health conditions, including those that cause low energy. Some may work better than others depending on the root cause and situation. 

  • Massage. Though it may not be used as a standalone treatment, studies suggest that massage can help with depression and generalized anxiety disorder symptoms. Massage can decrease cortisol levels, and some individuals feel that it helps with energy levels and pain.
  • Acupuncture. Research suggests that individuals facing several medical and mental health concerns may find acupuncture helpful, including those with depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue. Though it can be pricey, some acupuncture professionals accept health insurance or offer sliding scale rates.
  • Peer support. Whether in-person or online, peer support may be valuable for those who live with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It can also be an avenue of comfort or relief for individuals who live with physical health conditions. Research indicates that peer support options such as support groups can help with depression, anxiety, burnout, and stress, all of which can potentially impact energy and other concerns like self-esteem.
  • Medications. Various types of medication can help treat mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, including low energy as a primary symptom. Medication can be used alongside other forms of treatment and support, like talk therapy, or it may be prescribed on its own. Make sure to consult with your doctor before changing, starting, or stopping medications.
  • Lifestyle factors.  Getting enough sleep, implementing a form of physical activity that you enjoy in your life, and limiting alcohol are lifestyle factors that can support overall health and energy levels.
  • Mental health therapy. Therapy is a golden-standard treatment for many mental disorders and conditions. It can help with symptom management in conditions such as depression or anxiety. It can also aid those experiencing stress, grief, difficulty in interpersonal relationships, and physical health conditions. A therapist can provide validation, guidance, coping skills, and more.

How online therapy can help

One of the most popular forms of therapy is called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), which works to help identify the roots of problems and how to reframe false and negative thinking patterns. CBT has consistently been found to improve many mental health conditions – including depression and anxiety – and individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, a 2021 study of chronic fatigue syndrome patients found that those who received CBT reported improved physical function and less fatigue after treatment. These positive results were also still in effect after a year. 

It can be tough to reach out for support with low energy, but there are ways to make it more manageable. You can reach out via email instead of making phone calls or asking for a referral to a therapist from another medical or mental health professional, which may take some pressure off. You might also consider trying online therapy.

Online therapy is like in-person therapy, but sessions are conducted online – via video, audio call, or online chat – instead of in a face-to-face setting like a traditional therapy office. As with in-person therapy, research shows that it’s just as effective as in-person therapy in treating several different mental health concerns. This includes disorders that can cause low energy, like depression and anxiety.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
Do you constantly feel exhausted?

Whether you have an underlying physical or mental health condition, face life stress contributing to low energy, or have something else on your mind, it can be advantageous to have someone to talk to. Joining an online therapy platform like BetterHelp can make it easier to get the help you need. BetterHelp can match you with a professional so that you don’t have to shop around, spend time on a waiting list, or reach out to therapists who don’t have openings. 

There are over 35,000 licensed mental health professionals on the BetterHelp platform who offer therapy and specialize in various mental health concerns. BetterHelp plans are often more affordable than traditional in-person mental health therapy, and financial aid may be available for those who need it. Additionally, users can be paired with a therapist within 48 hours of signing up on the platform and can begin sessions soon after (whenever works for both the client and the therapist).

Takeaway

Exhaustion can result from a variety of reasons – some physical, some mental. While it’s important to be tested for underlying physical causes, it’s just as important to treat any mental health conditions or concerns that may be contributed to your physical symptoms. One of the best ways to do this is through professional therapy. BetterHelp makes it easier to reach out for help – especially when you’re already dealing with exhaustion. Let us help you regain your energy. Get started today.
Seeking to improve your mental health?
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet started