Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


4-minute read

Fatigue is a condition in which you feel exhausted all the time, even if you are well rested. It is not a normal part of getting older — it is a symptom of something that is wrong. There are many different causes of fatigue, so you should see your doctor to find out why you feel so tired.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is a very common complaint. It’s a symptom of something, not a disease in itself. It can be caused by physical or psychological conditions, and sometimes by a mixture of the two. 

When you are fatigued, you feel exhausted all the time, to the point that it affects your daily living as well as your mental and emotional state. Apart from feeling very tired, you might also lack motivation or have problems with concentration and memory. You might also get very tired after you start an activity. 

Fatigue often gets worse gradually. You might not realise how much it is affecting you until you think about all the things you could do previously.

What causes fatigue?

Usually, fatigue is caused by stress and anxiety, depression, a virus, or a sleep problem. 

Sometimes fatigue is a symptom of a physical condition such as:

  • anaemia — not having enough iron in your blood 
  • sleep apnoea — a condition that affects your breathing while you sleep 
  • underactive thyroid — when you have too little of the thyroid hormone thyroxine
  • coeliac disease — when you are allergic to gluten
  • chronic fatigue syndrome — when you have severe, disabling fatigue that lasts for at least 4 months. You may also have other symptoms such as pain in your joints and muscles. Chronic fatigue syndrome is also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME).
  • diabetes — when your body can’t metabolise glucose. This common condition also causes thirst, a need to go to the toilet frequently, and weight loss.
  • glandular fever — an illness caused by a virus that also gives you a sore throat and swollen glands
  • restless legs syndrome — when you have the urge to keep moving your legs at night
  • cancer
  • heart disease
  • problems with your liver or kidneys
  • multiple sclerosis

Fatigue treatment

To find out what is causing your fatigue, your doctor will ask you about any other symptoms and do a full examination. They may also order some blood tests or imaging tests, depending on what they think your condition might be.

Treatment will depend on the condition that is causing your fatigue. Sometimes, after treatment, you will feel better almost straight away. However, it might also take several weeks for your fatigue to lessen. 

Non-medical treatments that have been shown to be effective for some people include mindfulness, meditation, yoga and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Fatigue self-care

Making sure you have good quality sleep can help you manage fatigue. Ensure you go to bed at the same time each night and stick to healthy sleep habits

Eating a healthy diet and doing regular physical activity will also help improve your sleep and lessen fatigue. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables; avoid junk food; and try to avoid alcohol and caffeine since these can affect your sleep. 

If you have fatigue, talk to your doctor about whether it is safe to drive or carry out your normal work duties. 

How to prevent fatigue

Fatigue is a symptom of several conditions so it is hard to prevent. But it’s important to listen to your body and see a doctor so they can find the underlying cause. 

When to seek help for fatigue

See your doctor if you have fatigue for more than 2 weeks and it’s not getting better even though you are getting enough rest. 

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Chronic fatigue syndrome -

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) also calledmyalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or ME/CFS is a complex condition. Itcauses extreme fatigue, sleep problems, pain and other symptoms

Read more on myDr website

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Sleep

Are people with CFS just tired?People with CFS are more than just tired. They suffer from an intense fatigue and exhaustion that wont go away. Physical or mental activity can make their CFS symptoms worse. To recover, the person must rest for longer than usual. People with CFS have less energy to do everyday

Read more on Sleep Health Foundation website

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) - Better Health Channel

Myalgic encephalomyelitis, commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome, can affect people of any age, including children.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Chronic fatigue syndrome in young people | Raising Children Network

Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis makes people feel tired all the time. Read how individual treatment plans can help with CFS symptoms.

Read more on website

Chronic fatigue syndrome - Lab Tests Online AU

Site map of article content

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Fatigue and arthritis Arthritis Australia

Fatigue is a feeling of both physical and mental tiredness

Read more on Arthritis Australia website

Fatigue | enableme - stroke recovery and support

Fatigue is common after stroke, fifty percent of survivors in one study said tiredness was their main problem twelve months on. What can you can do to better manage fatigue

Read more on Stroke Foundation website

Fatigue - Better Health Channel

Fatigue is a symptom, not a condition, but it can cause other symptoms including headache, appetite loss and poor concentration.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Cancer fatigue on Vimeo

Elizabeth Pearson, Occupational Therapist, PhD, discusses the most effective ways of managing cancer-related fatigue. Recorded live at the Counterpart Resource Centre

Read more on Counterpart - Women supporting women with cancer website

Fatigue | National Centre for Farmer Health

Fatigue can lead to serious risks for farmers. Fatigue can have both physical and mental causes and can be described as a feeling of constant tiredness or weakness. Its not the same as feeling drowsy, or tired after a busy day. Its more a feeling of pushing yourself through the day, every day. Read more...

Read more on National Centre for Farmer Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo