BURNOUT: Step 1, Finding out if there is something medically wrong.

June 29, 2016

If you are suffering from overwhelming fatigue, the first thing you should do is speak to your physician.  There are many serious illnesses and conditions (physical and mental) where fatigue is one of the symptoms.  Some of these include:


1.  Hypothyroidism - Fatigue is one of the many symptoms of hypothyroidism, which involves an underfunctioning or underactive thyroid gland.  This gland is butterfly shaped and is located in your neck.  When your thyroid is not producing enough hormones, one of the effects is fatigue.  Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication to replace the missing thyroid hormones. 


2.  Low Iron Levels - This is the most common nutritional deficiency.  Iron is important in manufacturing hemoglobin, which is a protein found in your red blood cells and is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout your body.  If your iron levels are low, you can feel very fatigued.  Hemoglobin and ferritin levels need to be tested by your physician.  You may need to increase your iron intake through supplements or foods rich in iron. 


3.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome - This mysterious illness is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), despite its history of controversy as an illness.  Crippling fatigue is the most prominent symptom, and it tends to worsen with physical or mental activity, and not be improved with bedrest.  Treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms. 


4.  Fibromyalgia - This condition includes persistent muscle aches and extreme fatigue, often due to disturbances in the deep restful cycles of sleep.  Treatment involves medication and lifestyle (relaxation, exercises). 


5.  Rheumatoid Arthritis - Although this autoimmune disorder (the immune system of the individual attacks itself) involves joint pain and damage, it is also a whole-body, systemic disease that may include fatigue and general malaise as symptoms.  Treatment involves various medications and symptom management through lifestyle (energy conservation, joint protection, relaxation techniques, etc.). 


6.  Sleeping Disorders - There are a number of sleep disorders that can cause fatigue.  Some of the more common ones are insomnia and sleep apnea.  Sleep labs are good at detecting sleep rhythm abnormalities and sleep apnea.  In the case of sleep apnea, it is treated with a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which is a face or nasal mask worn during sleep to pump air into the nasal passages so that the airway stays open. 


7.  Anorexia Nervosa - Not surprisingly, this eating disorder is also associated with fatigue.  If you are not consuming the necessary caloric intake, your energy will be negatively affected. 


8.  Congestive Heart Failure -   When the heart is unable to pump as well, less blood and oxygen reaches the tissues and muscles in the body, resulting in increased fatigue. 


9.  Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) - This condition emerges as daylight hours decrease (in the autumn in the northern hemisphere), and results in depression and fatigue.  Treatment includes light therapy and sometimes antidepressants too. 


When it comes to conditions and diseases, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are a number of other conditions such as mononucleosis (mono), lupus, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and more that can have fatigue or exhaustion as a symptom. People with depression and anxiety can also experience fatigue, but sometimes the fatigue precedes the depression and anxiety.  


In any case, it is assumed that you have been to your doctor who has ruled out the above specific diseases or conditions that could be causing your fatigue, and that the cause of your fatigue is burnout. 


If, however, you are someone who has one of the above medical conditions, and exhaustion is still plaguing you despite undergoing treatment, then many of the ideas presented in this book may be applicable to your life too.  You should, however, still consult with your physician as there may be reasons why you are still not feeling well.  For example, in the case of hypothyroidism, it may mean that your medications are not adjusted correctly for you. 


In what follows in this blog, the progression from stress to burnout is going to be discussed.  Then you will learn how you can get back on the road to recovery through making lifestyle changes with regards to your sleep, diet, and other methods. 


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