Depression, Fatigue Fueled by Each Other

Depression and fatigue reinforce each other in a vicious cycle, say European researchers.

Depression and fatigue reinforce each other in a vicious cycle, say European researchers. Depression at the beginning of a year-long study of 3,200 patients raised the likelihood of fatigue by four times, while fatigue at the start more than doubled the chances of depression, says lead author Petros Skapinakis, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece.

Association between depression and unexplained fatigue is well-known, but doctors were never sure which symptom came first. 
“Fatigue and psychiatric disorder are not the same,” Skapinakis says. “It is evident from the literature that fatigue and depression have different risk factors.”

Fatigued persons might feel psychologically distressed over their condition, and decreased energy is one symptom of depression. 
Levels of physical activity could explain the interaction between fatigue and depression, he says. “Physical activity is known to have a protective effect on depression,” Skapinakis says. “It has also been suggested that physical deconditioning might be an important factor in the development of unexplained fatigue.”

Since treatment for both chronic fatigue and depression includes exercise, doctors often prescribe fitness regime to people with depression. Physical activity shifts attention away from unpleasant or unhelpful thoughts.