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HealthInfo Canterbury

About fatigue

Mō te ruha

FDP young woman at homeFatigue can be especially common if you live with a long-term health condition or disability. It can be experienced physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Fatigue can be hard to describe. Words like lethargic, exhausted, sluggish, and tired are often used to describe it.

Fatigue can be very debilitating. It can affect your:

Causes of fatigue

Fatigue may be the result of a health condition or a mix of factors, such as:

Disease or injury

Stroke, brain injury or concussion, multiple sclerosis, or other brain or nerve conditions. Arthritis or other rheumatic diseases, cancer, anaemia, infection, ME/CFS, or malnutrition.


Chronic (persistent) pain can cause fatigue because of the emotional and physical energy you use to deal with the pain and its effect on sleep.


In some cases if you are not getting enough physical activity your body can feel tired.

Mental health

Depression, stress, anxiety, and addictions can make you feel tired and unmotivated. Feeling tired can worsen your depression, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break.

Environmental causes

Some situations or environments can worsen fatigue. These include hot environments, loud noisy situations, uncomfortable positions, furniture, or having to walk, stand, sit, or work beyond your limit.

Lifestyle factors

Sometimes life itself becomes a cause of fatigue. Juggling the demands of work, children, caring for others, and other stressors and challenges can prevent getting enough sleep or achieving good quality sleep.

Talk about your symptoms of fatigue with your doctor to ensure other potential causes or problems are identified and addressed.

On the next page: Managing fatigue

Written by the Occupational Therapy Canterbury HealthInfo Workgroup. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2019.

Image courtesy of marin at

Page reference: 273437

Review key: HIFAT-275459