Am I Just Tired, or Is It Depression?

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


Though living with extreme tiredness has become the norm for many people, constant fatigue may be a warning sign of a more serious issue. In fact, fatigue is one of the leading symptoms of major depressive disorder . How do you know whether you need to catch up on some sleep or if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression? Read on to learn more about the difference between standard tiredness and depression fatigue. 

What is Fatigue? 

Feeling tired when you don’t get enough sleep is a normal experience that can be remedied by adjusting your sleep schedule. Chronic fatigue is a more difficult condition, and can last weeks, months, or longer depending on the underlying cause. In addition to feeling tired, fatigue can cause disinterest in hobbies or obligations, irritation, and a lack of energy to participate in daily activities.  

Possible causes of fatigue can include: 

  • Depression  
  • Grief 
  • Sleep disorders (such as insomnia or sleep apnea) 
  • Medications 
  • Medical conditions or chronic pain  
  • Drugs or alcohol 
  • Thyroid issues 

What is Depression? 

Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States. An estimated 21 million American adults (NIMH, 2020) and 3.7 million youth (MHA, 2022) experience at least one episode of depression each year. 

Though millions of Americans struggle with depression, many have no idea that their symptoms point to mental illness. Depression is difficult to recognize and accept when you’re experiencing it. Depressive symptoms may seem normal to those who struggle with them daily, and depression can come in many forms, including major depressive disorder (MDD), treatment-resistant depression, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), and more. It’s important to know what symptoms to watch for. 

Fatigue is not the only indicator of depression. To be officially diagnosed with depression, you must experience at least five of the following symptoms for longer than two weeks: 

  • Fatigue  
  • Insomnia, or oversleeping 
  • Sudden decrease or increase in appetite 
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Sadness or depressed mood  
  • Irritability  
  • Sluggish speaking, thoughts, or body movement 
  • Intense mood swings 
  • Sudden apathy toward hobbies and interests 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and/or emptiness 
  • Recurring thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation  

Why Does Depression Cause Fatigue? 

While there is no definitive answer to this question, depression and fatigue often go hand-in-hand. Depression fatigue may be caused by a disrupted sleep schedule, lack of motivation, stress, or antidepressant medications such as SSRIs and SNRIs.  

Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, with one 2018 study from the journal CNS Drugs recording that over 90% of diagnosed depression patients report feelings of excessive tiredness. The relationship between depression and fatigue can also become cyclical without intervention. Individuals with major depressive disorder often experience fatigue throughout the day, which can in turn fuel their depression and cause even more fatigue. 

What Are My Treatment Options? 

Fortunately, there are multiple treatment options available for depression:


Professional counseling, or therapy, is often used to treat depression. While therapy may not be effective for every individual, especially for those struggling with a more severe form of depression, speaking with a licensed therapist can be a good starting point to develop coping skills for navigating life with depression.


If therapy is unsuccessful on its own, medication may offer relief. For many patients, antidepressant medication is a life changing answer to their symptoms. However, some individuals may find that their condition remains unchanged or that the negative side-effects of antidepressants outweigh the possible benefits. To find the most effective medication option for you, contact a licensed psychiatrist.   

TMS Treatment 

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was approved by the FDA for depression  treatment in 2008. This form of treatment is drug-free, non-invasive, and painless. During a TMS therapy session, the patient wears a helmet that sends magnetic pulses through the brain to stimulate brain function and develop new neural pathways. Regular sessions over a four-to-six-week period can reduce symptoms of depression even in patients who suffer from treatment-resistant depression. TMS is especially effective when combined with ketamine treatment, however this is simply suggested and not required.

Ketamine Infusion 

Ketamine therapy has emerged in  recent years as a highly successful treatment for those who have not experienced results from other treatment options. The infusion procedure is simple and safe. Conducted under close medical supervision by a licensed practitioner, the patient only has to sit back and relax in a calm environment as their treatment is administered. Relief is rapid though short-term, with many patients noticing a marked improvement within 24 hours of their first treatment. It is suggested that ketamine treatment be used with TMS to ensure immediate and lasting results. 

If you believe that you or a loved one is experiencing fatigue as a side effect of major depressive disorder, know that you do not have to face the challenge alone. Contact us  at Serenity Mental Health Centers to learn more about our advanced treatment options for depression, such as TMS therapy, ketamine treatment, and medication management. Our team of experienced staff members and board-certified psychiatrists can help you find a plan that delivers fast and lasting relief.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.