Fatigue - causes and help with fatigue

Fatigue - causes and help with fatigue

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In general, our body is robust, so that a healthy person can handle fatigue and exhaustion to a normal degree. Accordingly, e.g. After a stressful phase at work, a cold or after strenuous events such as intensive sports training, a short rest period is usually sufficient to recover. In other cases, however, the feeling of exhaustion persists, which can have various physical causes such as an infection, an underactive thyroid or poor circulation.

Psychological triggers are playing an increasingly important role when it comes to chronic fatigue. With burnout syndrome, for example, those affected feel completely burned out, emotionally exhausted and no longer have the strength to cope with everyday life. If the fatigue occurs permanently and goes beyond a normal feeling of “fatigue”, a doctor should always be consulted. This can clarify the cause and initiate necessary therapeutic steps if necessary.

Symptoms of fatigue

When exhausted and overworked, the body reacts with certain “warning signals”, which, however, are often not perceived in everyday life, but instead are dismissed as harmless “zippers” or even ignored. As a result, the stress increases, the negative stress increases, which increases the risk of physical and psychological problems such as a weakness, cardiovascular disease or depression increases. To avoid exhaustion, you should therefore pay attention to physical stress reactions at an early stage and react accordingly.

Typical symptoms include shoulder, back and neck tension, headache, an increased susceptibility to infections, digestive problems such as diarrhea or constipation, chronic fatigue, sleep disorders and poor concentration.

Sudden dizziness (e.g. when getting up quickly), gnashing of teeth, lack of drive or buzzing in the ears are often a sign that the batteries are literally "empty" and the body urgently needs rest and regeneration.

Causes of exhaustion and fatigue

Everybody probably knows how to feel tired, exhausted and tired every now and then. There can be many reasons for this, in many cases it is a temporary weakness that e.g. was caused by too little sleep or an eventful, stressful day. Intensive sports training, long car journeys or an expensive journey can also result in us running out of energy, as can an emotionally or psychologically stressful situation (e.g. loss of a close person, separation).

In other cases, the feeling of exhaustion lasts longer and in a very pronounced form, which can be caused, among other things, by diseases of the cardiovascular system such as cardiac arrhythmia, coronary heart disease, heart failure or high blood pressure. Other possible triggers are cancer or inflammatory bowel diseases.

Hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism, anemia, circulatory problems and infectious diseases come into consideration. Certain medications (e.g. antihypertensives, sedatives, migraine medications or cancer drugs), alcohol abuse and eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa (anorexia) or bulimia can also be responsible for chronic fatigue.

Mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders or a burn-out syndrome are possible. This leads to the fact that sufferers experience chronic fatigue and are constantly quickly exhausted, although objectively there is no excessive stress at all.

Fatigue from a cold

A flu-like infection (cold) is often the reason. This is an acute infection of the upper respiratory tract, which is one of the most common diseases. In most cases, a cold is caused by viruses (e.g. rhino or corona viruses) that are transmitted from person to person via small droplets of saliva when speaking, coughing or sneezing (droplet infection).

Susceptibility is particularly high if the body's immune system e.g. is weakened as a result of persistent stress, lack of sleep or medication. In addition, due to restricted defense, there is also a bacterial infection in some cases ("mixed infection" or "super infection"). Streptococci and pneumococci are often the “culprits” here, which make the cold more severe and can lead to complications such as pneumonia or otitis media.

A flu-like infection can be accompanied by many different symptoms, which can vary greatly from case to case. Most people initially notice difficulty swallowing as well as scratching, burning and a dry feeling in the throat. Due to the attacked nasal mucosa, there is often frequent sneezing, tingling and itching in the nose.

In the further course cough, runny nose and hoarseness can occur. General symptoms such as severe tiredness and fatigue, chills, increased temperature, limb and headaches are also typical.

If children have a cold, fever often occurs. Inflammation of the upper respiratory tract can spread to other areas and, for example, lead to bronchitis with symptoms such as purulent sputum, chest pain or a burning sensation in the chest.

Chronic fatigue syndrome

If fatigue persists, the so-called "chronic fatigue syndrome" (myalgic encephalomyelitis) comes into consideration, which is often also referred to as "chronic fatigue syndrome" (CFS). It is a very complex and difficult to grasp clinical picture, which can cause different symptoms.

It is characterized by paralyzing mental and physical exhaustion, which usually occurs suddenly, lasts longer than six months and cannot be relieved by breaks or sleep. The constant fatigue leads to a sharp decrease in performance, physical complaints such as headache, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disorders, sore throat and joints, muscle weakness and concentration disorders are also typical.

Common symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include increased irritability, depressed moods and increasing forgetfulness. The form of the syndrome can, however, vary from case to case. Accordingly, some sufferers experience only some of the complaints mentioned in a mild form, while others are so severely restricted that participation in "normal" life is no longer possible.

What causes the chronic fatigue syndrome has not yet been clarified, rather a wide variety of factors are discussed that could be triggered or amplified. These include e.g. Infectious diseases or their pathogens such as the Epstein-Barr virus, certain herpes viruses or intestinal fungi (Candida albicans). Disorders of the hormonal balance or immune system can be considered, as well as psychological stress due to stress, separation, loss of a close person or other traumatic experiences. A family predisposition is often suspected.

Depression / burn-out

A so-called "burn-out syndrome" (also called "exhaustion depression") can be responsible for fatigue, although this term usually already describes the state of complete physical, emotional and mental exhaustion. As the name suggests, those suffering from burnout usually feel completely "burned out" and internally empty, but this does not occur abruptly, but in most cases develops over a longer period of time.

Often people are affected who identify with their job to a high degree and work hard for other people, but at the same time only little recognition by superiors or the like. receive (such as teachers, doctors or nurses).

Generally, however, a burnout can also affect anyone else who, e.g. experienced heavy loads or excessive demands in the professional and / or private area. These include bullying, persistent severe stress, unresolved conflicts, fears of existence or a negative atmosphere in the workplace. It is also often assumed that the development of burnout syndrome is favored by a combination of stress at work and psychological factors. Particularly strong ambition, perfectionism, a pronounced sense of responsibility ("helper syndrome"), lack of stress management strategies and the fear of losing control are particularly risky.

Even those who primarily define themselves through their work and consider other areas such as family, friends, hobbies, etc. to be less important run the risk of draining the “batteries” more quickly. The reason for this lies in the lack of compensation for the daily stress, stress, frustration and possible conflicts that are experienced in the job.

Since a burn-out is not a uniform clinical picture, very different physical or psychological symptoms can occur, but these generally all develop gradually. Accordingly, it is typical for the early phase that the person concerned invests an extremely large amount of time and energy in his work, so that “switching off” and thus recovery and regeneration is hardly possible. As a result, success is experienced in the job, but the constant "being driven" and the lack of compensation creates more and more dissatisfaction and frustration.

There is a decrease in performance, chronic fatigue and exhaustion, sleep disorders, anxiety and panic attacks as well as depressive signs such as depression, joylessness, withdrawal from social life and a feeling of inner emptiness. The massive psychological stress is also manifested by physical complaints, which often appear at the beginning of the illness. These include, for example, headache and back pain, dizziness, sleep disorders, muscle tension, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, high blood pressure and an increased susceptibility to infections.

If the exhaustion depression is not treated, the further course is at worst characterized by a feeling of complete despair and hopelessness. Life seems pointless to those affected and the risk of suicidal thoughts is extremely increased. Accordingly, early treatment is all the more important.

Exhaustion in children

If children seem chipped, there may be physical or psychological reasons why e.g. decreased performance, severe fatigue and increased irritability occur. Exhausted children are often particularly quarrelsome, cry a lot and are bothered by things that are otherwise not a problem.

On the one hand, exhaustion can be a normal reaction of the body after the child has experienced a drastic change (school enrollment, the start of kindergarten, etc.) or a severe strain (death of a close person, separation of parents, etc.). Children can also quickly lose their energy if they are overwhelmed at school or because of too much "leisure stress" in the form of daily offers, appointments and sports training. The same applies if you haven't slept enough, but instead e.g. is spent in the evening for a long time in front of the television or on the computer.

A feeling of exhaustion often arises after an infectious disease has been overcome, since the body first has to recover from the stress in order to be "fully operational" again. Accordingly, it is natural for the child to have an increased need for rest and relaxation first. However, if this lasts longer than 14 days and / or is accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, headache or the like. accompanied, the pediatrician should be consulted.

If the tiredness persists longer and is accompanied by a sad, depressed mood, children may already be depressed. Typical for this are a general lack of motivation and listlessness, sadness, fears and increased shyness as well as reluctance to play (in young children). Other signs include expressionlessness on the face, frequent crying, withdrawal from friends or changes in eating behavior and sleep disorders.

Since younger children in particular still lack the ability to verbalize the feeling of sadness and depression, depressive moods are often described as “stomach ache” or “headache”, which makes the diagnosis even more difficult. In general, however, it applies here that not all symptoms necessarily indicate a depressive illness, because it is completely normal for a child to be self-conscious from time to time and show no drive. However, parents should always take the “warning signs” seriously and, if they suspect depression, they should seek expert help from family or youth counseling centers or a child or youth psychologist.

If tiredness occurs in children in combination with fever and / or lymph node swelling, an infectious disease such as Pfeiffer glandular fever or chronic inflammation (e.g. "children's rheumatism").

If, in addition to the fever, there is an itchy rash on the whole body or on certain parts of the body, childhood diseases such as measles, chickenpox, rubella or scarlet fever are considered.

Accompanying symptoms such as paleness of the face, circulatory problems, dizziness or headache can indicate anemia. If this, in turn, is due to iron deficiency (iron deficiency anemia), symptoms such as brittle nails, reduced appetite, torn corners of the mouth, hair loss, dry skin or mouth burning often occur.

Another cause can be type 1 diabetes mellitus (“diabetes”), which is a common chronic illness in childhood and adolescence. With this metabolic disorder, the pancreas can no longer produce enough vital insulin, which is necessary to bring sugar from the blood into the cells. If there is a deficiency, the sugar remains in the blood, which increases the blood sugar level and thus the risk of secondary diseases such as circulatory disorders, disorders of kidney function, heart attack or stroke.

Affected children and adolescents must therefore inject the hormone regularly throughout their lives to compensate for the insulin deficiency. Type 1 diabetes is characterized above all by constant tiredness and exhaustion, a strong feeling of thirst, frequent urination and dry, itchy skin. In addition, there is usually weight loss and an increased susceptibility to infections

Help for exhausted children

If children seem tired and exhausted, this should in any case be taken seriously and “treated” with appropriate attention, because they often still lack the means to verbalize excessive demands, sadness, fears or worries. Accordingly, it is particularly important that the children are given space to express and process negative feelings. Parents should try to find out the reason for the exhaustion or sadness with a lot of patience and understanding - especially because these are often events that seem rather banal from an adult perspective, but are very stressful for the child.

If fatigue can be attributed to changes in the life of the child or excessive demands, it is often enough to “slow down” everyday life as a whole and thereby give the child the opportunity to recharge his batteries. Parents should take care to cope with psychological stress as much as possible and to plan the time after day care or school as little as possible in order to be able to offer the child as much rest as possible.

It is important to ensure that the child sleeps well and properly. In most cases, this is made easier if the child no longer has unlimited stimuli from television, computer games, etc. in the evening. Is "flooded". If the exhaustion persists over a longer period of time, a pediatrician should always be consulted as a precaution in order to clarify the cause and to rule out physical diseases such as diabetes mellitus, chronic inflammation or an infectious disease.


Treatment is not always necessary in the case of fatigue. If it is a “normal” reaction of the body to stress, special events or physical overload, this normally regulates itself again as soon as the load subsides or a break is taken. If the exhaustion persists for a longer period of time, a doctor should always be consulted in order to clarify the trigger and to be able to initiate therapeutic steps if necessary.

The specific treatment depends on the cause. For example, if there is a bacterial infectious disease, medication such as antibiotics can help in addition to rest and relaxation, and the missing thyroid hormones are usually replaced with medication in the event of a hormonal disorder such as an underactive thyroid.

In general, it is advisable to take care of a lot of rest and protection in the case of acute exhaustion, tiredness and weakness and to avoid strong physical and psychological exertion. Make sure you have a healthy lifestyle with sufficient sleep, a balanced diet and regular physical activity. Here, nutritional advice or professional sports coaching can provide helpful support.

If stress or other psychological stresses are the cause of permanent fatigue, relaxation techniques and exercises to reduce stress can be very useful. Procedures such as yoga, autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation help to reduce stress levels, recharge your batteries and relieve symptoms.

However, professional therapeutic help should always be sought, especially in the case of serious illnesses such as burn-out or depression.

Naturopathy for fatigue

Overload, stress and exhaustion can quickly become a serious threat to the health of the body and mind. It is all the more important to analyze the causes precisely. If you are feeling tired, you should always consult a doctor before natural treatment in order to rule out physical and organic causes.

In general, naturopathy recommends that when you are exhausted and feel "empty" and "burnt out", you should observe a healthy, natural lifestyle in order to offer your body and mind the opportunity to recover from the stresses and strains. These include regular relaxation exercises such as Autogenic training, meditation, breathing exercises, yoga or tai chi.

Schuessler salts are well suited for the natural treatment of exhaustion as a result of physical and / or mental exertion. Salts No. 2 (Calcium Phosphoricum), No. 5 (Potassium Phosphoricum) and No. 7 (Magnesium Phosphoricum) can be used. The means of choice as well as the dosage and duration of intake should be discussed with a naturopath or naturopathic doctor in advance.

New strength through the right nutrition

We recommend a balanced, nutritionally rich diet with lots of whole grain bread, fresh fruit, raw vegetables, nuts etc. as well as regular exercise in the fresh air and sufficient liquid (at least 2 liters per day) in the form of water, unsweetened tea or similar. Since the cause of chronic fatigue is often a lack of iron, in some cases various home remedies for iron deficiency can help the body to get new energy. Food with a high iron content, such as beetroot, carrots, nuts and leafy greens like fennel or lamb's lettuce in question.

Water applications

In addition, e.g. Kneipp hydrotherapy, which uses the healing power of water to provide the body with new energy when exhausted and thereby improve physical and psychological well-being. Among other things, the classic “water treading” comes into question, which can be carried out in a stream, but also as a Kneipp cure in your own bathroom. To do this, fill the bath approximately half full with cold water. Then walk around in the “stork step” for about a minute or step on the spot. It is important that the leg is lifted completely out of the water with every step.

Alternatively, cold-warm showers can be very pleasant and vitalizing when you are tired.

New energy through alternating showers
  1. First, take a warm or hot shower for two to three minutes until you feel comfortably warm
  2. Now set the temperature to cold or lukewarm
  3. Guide the water jet from the right foot over the back of the leg to the bottom and back on the inside of the thigh
  4. The same happens on the left leg
  5. Then first the right and then the left arm are showered cold according to the same scheme (outside from the back of the hand to the shoulder, from the armpit back to the inside of the hand)
  6. Finally, it is the turn of the chest, stomach, neck and face
  7. Then take a warm shower again for two to three minutes
  8. The cold application should be repeated two times
  9. After drying, it is advisable to lie in bed for half an hour to rewarm or to move slightly

Medicinal plants against stress

Medicinal plants can be used sensibly as an accompanying and supportive measure. Here, for example, the ginseng root has proven itself to strengthen the body against stress, weakness and reduced performance. Ginseng is available in various forms (capsules, tea, dried or fresh root, syrup, etc.), but it must not be taken during pregnancy and lactation, and in the case of diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus or hardening of the arteries, it should not be taken.

Valerian, guarana and mate, among others, are ideal for mental exhaustion due to persistent stress. St. John's wort and lavender have proven their worth if strains such as grief, worry or fear are the reason for a feeling of depression and emptiness.

Medicinal plants such as nettles or dandelions contain a lot of iron and are therefore suitable on their own or as a tea very well to replenish the stores in the event of a deficiency and to counteract exhaustion. (No)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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ICD codes for this disease: R53, Z73ICD codes are internationally valid encodings for medical diagnoses. You can find e.g. in doctor's letters or on disability certificates.

Video: Solving the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome (October 2022).