“I’m all the time going to be drained”: Fatigue in adolescent melancholy

Fatigue is a standard and disabling somatic symptom of melancholy (Kapfhammer, 2006). For instance, in a analysis pattern of 465 depressed adolescents’, fatigue was reported by 73.3% (Goodyer et al., 2017). Fatigue will increase the danger of social and useful impairment, suicide and nervousness (Nyer et al., 2015). It’s related to increased financial burden (Robinson et al., 2015) and is a residual symptom, growing the danger of relapse (Fava et al., 2014).

Present psychological therapies for melancholy are yielding reasonable effectiveness at greatest, while pharmacological therapies are much less efficient at treating fatigue in comparison with different melancholy signs (Nierenberg et al., 1999; Nierenberg et al., 2010). Analysis additionally suggests fatigue could impression adolescents’ capability to have interaction in psychological therapies for melancholy (Herring et al., 2021; Watson et al., 2020).

A further concern is that psychological therapies for melancholy in adolescents are extensions of therapy protocols designed for adults. As an grownup who skilled fatigue while identified with melancholy as a young person, this resonated with me as notably problematic, since adolescents can expertise completely different melancholy signs to adults.

To enhance therapy effectiveness for adolescent melancholy, we have to determine the signs that are skilled as being most “prevalent and problematic” (Higson-Sweeney et al., 2023). This qualitative research explored the expertise of fatigue in adolescents with elevated signs melancholy, with the goal of understanding how fatigue interacts with different signs of melancholy and the way it impacts adolescent’s lives.

Fatigue is the most commonly reported somatic symptom of depression in adolescents.

Fatigue is probably the most generally reported somatic symptom of melancholy in adolescents.


Adolescents (N=19) with elevated melancholy signs had been recruited from youngster and adolescent psychological well being companies (CAMHS) within the South West of England and by way of on-line adverts. This recruitment technique aimed to increase the pattern’s reachability to these adolescents who weren’t accessing CAMHS.

Contributors had been screened for eligibility for melancholy signs utilizing the Quick Temper and Emotions Questionnaire (SMFQ) and for fatigue signs utilizing the Chalder Fatigue Scale (CFS). Adolescents who had been at excessive threat of self-harm and/or suicide had been excluded from recruitment.

Participant traits had been collected together with age, gender, ethnicity, self-reported co-morbid issues and present or historic contact with CAMHS.

Data energy guided the recruitment course of. Qualitative information was collected by way of semi-structured interviews and was analysed utilizing reflexive thematic evaluation.


The authors generated three themes by means of thematic evaluation.

Theme 1: Fatigue is a fancy idea

This theme explored ‘fatigue’ as a time period to explain the expertise, how it’s conceptualised by adolescents and the way it’s skilled bodily and psychologically.

Fatigue will not be an on a regular basis time period

The authors report that adolescents used a wide range of phrases to explain the expertise of fatigue. Most, however not all, adolescents knew the definition of fatigue. Adolescents didn’t really feel they might use fatigue in on a regular basis language, reasonably reserving it for appointments, deeming it a ‘medical’ time period.

The tiredness fatigue continuum

Adolescents recognized tiredness as a standard expertise amongst their friends, however fatigue was described as a stage of tiredness which was ‘problematic’. Fatigue was seen as being the ‘excessive’ on the spectrum of tiredness. Adolescents additionally seen fatigue as a “dynamic” expertise which may change in presence or severity all through the day.

Skilled mentally, manifests bodily

Psychological and bodily fatigue gave the impression to be seen as distinct experiences by adolescents, with psychological fatigue being perceived as harder to deal with. Adolescents attributed bodily therapies for bodily fatigue, i.e., sleep time, which was not seen as useful by adolescents for psychological fatigue.

Psychological fatigue was seen as a consequence of dealing with different depressive signs. Nonetheless, adolescents acknowledged that psychological and bodily fatigue was exhausting to differentiate and will each current bodily. The authors observe this elicited a way of hopelessness.

Theme 2: Trapped in a cycle of fatigue

This theme encompassed the methods through which adolescents felt trapped by fatigue.

All roads result in fatigue

The authors recognized that adolescents felt fatigue had many triggers. These ranged from ruptures in relationships, surprising duties and college calls for. Adolescents additionally recognized different depressive signs as triggers for fatigue.

Issue disentangling fatigue from different depressive signs

Not solely did depressive signs set off fatigue, however they had been additionally described by adolescents as being intertwined. The authors made sense of adolescent’s accounts as being akin to a ‘domino impact’, fatigue was described as linking with and exacerbating different signs.

No power to have interaction

The authors recognized that adolescents skilled fatigue as an absence of power, leaving “a pool of minimal sources”. This restricted adolescents’ capability to deal with every day calls for, educational studying and attendance, social actions and remedy for melancholy, leaving them feeling responsible and remoted.

Disrupting the cycle: protecting components

The authors recognized two protecting components described by adolescents as a means of managing fatigue. Distraction was generally utilized by adolescents as a low demand approach that enabled them to concentrate on one thing apart from fatigue. Partaking in wholesome practices corresponding to consuming nicely, retaining hydrated and train was additionally described. Train appeared to offer psychological profit and probably cut back emotions of guilt round fatigue, as adolescents famous that it was standard to really feel drained after being energetic.

Theme 3: Stigma as a barrier to help-seeking

The authors conceptualised this theme as encompassing how inner and exterior stigma round fatigue can act as a barrier to help-seeking.

Blaming self for fatigue

Adolescents appeared extremely essential of their incapacity to have interaction in actions and duties to the identical diploma as their non-fatigued friends. Societal notions of ‘laziness’ within the absence of productiveness led to self-blame, this prolonged to partaking in respite actions to handle fatigue.

Lack of awareness from others

Exterior criticism was generally skilled by adolescents from household and mates. Others didn’t perceive fatigue as a depressive symptom, reasonably a bodily tiredness which could possibly be aided by sleep, resulting in adolescents feeling misunderstood.

Whereas, some adolescents appeared to conceptualise their fatigue as non-physical and due to this fact much less tangible which made help-seeking appear pointless. The authors observe self-criticism as influencing this additional as fatigue was described as not being seen as ‘necessary sufficient’ to hunt assist for.

The personal accounts of adolescents in the study indicated that they may often feel trapped in a vicious cycle of fatigue which may contribute to their lived experience of depression.

The non-public accounts of adolescents indicated that they might really feel trapped in a vicious cycle of fatigue contributing to their lived expertise of melancholy.


The authors conclude that fatigue as a depressive symptom “is a standard however complicated phenomenon”. Fatigue is conceptualised as a multifaceted, dynamic symptom which is on the excessive finish of a continuum. Adolescents really feel trapped by the cycle of fatigue, which the authors observe has bio-psycho-social elements and seems to contribute, and be contributed to, by different depressive signs.

Fatigue seems to impression adolescents’ day-to-day lives and their capability to have interaction in actions and remedy. Adolescents seem self-critical of how fatigue impacts their engagement and have a tendency to really feel criticised by others. Assist-seeking is prevented as a consequence of notions of fatigue not being vital sufficient for therapy. The authors advise additional analysis is required “to determine how these manifestations are addressed”.

Fatigue as a symptom of depression is common in adolescents, but complex to conceptualise.

Fatigue as a symptom of melancholy is widespread in adolescents, however complicated to conceptualise.

Strengths and limitations

The authors observe the power of inclusivity that together with on-line participant recruitment enabled, as this made it attainable to recruit members who weren’t accessing CAMHS. That is necessary, because it prolonged reachability to incorporate adolescents who had not been formally identified with Main Depressive Dysfunction, had not accessed companies, or who had traditionally been admitted to CAMHS. In 2018, a median 77% of adolescents obtained a profitable referral to CAMHS (Bell, 2018), leaving 23% of adolescents with out entry to psychological well being help. It’s my view that together with non-CAMHS adolescents improves representativeness of adolescents experiencing melancholy signs within the UK. Future analysis may prolong their recruitment to impartial and charity companies.

The authors observe that the pattern was not demographically numerous, being primarily white British and cisgender, which can restrict the representativeness of the pattern. Nonetheless, the pattern included three non-binary and one transgender adolescent out of the 19 members. It’s attainable that this could possibly be in proportion to the broader inhabitants of adolescents within the UK. Present statistics of gender identification for younger individuals within the UK are restricted. Probably the most not too long ago recognized is a census from 2021 which reported younger individuals (aged 16-24) had been the most probably group out of these analysed to report their gender identification as being completely different from their intercourse assigned at beginning, estimated as being 1% (Workplace for Nationwide Statistics, 2023). The ignorance round gender identification demographics within the UK amongst adolescents poses issue for researchers to make sure correct illustration of their pattern in comparison with the broader goal inhabitants.

As an individual with lived expertise of adolescent melancholy, I felt a specific power of this research was the involvement of a youth advisory group all through the analysis course of. The authors observe this allowed for reflexivity, which I feel is especially necessary when making sense of others experiences of depressive signs corresponding to fatigue, which might be various and sophisticated.

Youth advisory groups enable young people to share their experiences and contribute to research.

Youth advisory teams allow younger individuals to share their experiences and contribute to analysis.

Implications for apply

This exploratory research has supplied key implications for scientific apply. Though fatigue is usually skilled in adolescent melancholy, it isn’t nicely understood by the adolescents experiencing it or these round them. Psychoeducation and consciousness of fatigue as a depressive symptom in therapy and psychological well being campaigns could help this. It could be fascinating to see if elevated understanding of fatigue would cut back the stigma associated to fatigue as indicated by the findings.

An extra implication stems from the language across the expertise of fatigue as being a possible barrier to therapy. As famous within the outcomes, fatigue was described as a medical time period and adolescents tended to make use of completely different language to specific the expertise of fatigue. Subsequently, the authors advise clinicians to concentrate on fatigue-related language corresponding to motivation, tiredness, lack of power, to make sure fatigue will not be neglected.

To enhance therapies for adolescents experiencing fatigue as a depressive symptom, fatigue must be stored on the coronary heart of the therapy course of. The authors counsel adapting current therapies as earlier research have instructed (Herring et al., 2021; Watson et al., 2021), but in addition integrating fatigue particular help as part of remedy. By piloting these suggestions, analysis may make actual and significant change in treating fatigue skilled by adolescents with elevated melancholy signs .

Psychoeducation on fatigue in relation to depression during psychological treatment may help adolescents to better understand their experiences.

Psychoeducation on fatigue in relation to melancholy throughout psychological therapy could assist adolescents to higher perceive their experiences.

Assertion of pursuits

I’ve beforehand labored with authors Nina Higson-Sweeney and Maria Loades on different papers. Notably, Herring et al., (2023) which explored the expertise of CBT in depressed adolescents who’re fatigued.


Main paper

Higson-Sweeney, N., Cooper, Okay., Dunn, B. D., & Loades, M. (2023). “I’m all the time going to be drained”: A qualitative exploration of adolescents’ experiences of fatigue in melancholyEuropean Youngster & Adolescent Psychiatry. .

Different references

Bell, A. (2018). Kids’s psychological well being companies: The info behind the headlines.

Fava, M., Ball, S., Nelson, J. C., Sparks, J., Konechnik, T., Classi, P., … & Thase, M. E. (2014). Medical relevance of fatigue as a residual symptom in main depressive dysfunctionMelancholy and nervousness31(3), 250-257.

Goodyer, I. M., Reynolds, S., Barrett, B., Byford, S., Dubicka, B., Hill, J., Holland, F., Kelvin, R., Midgley, N., Roberts, C., Senior, R., Goal, M., Widmer, B., Wilkinson, P., & Fonagy, P. (2017). Cognitive-behavioural remedy and short-term psychoanalytic psychotherapy versus temporary psychosocial intervention in adolescents with unipolar main melancholy (IMPACT): a multicentre, pragmatic, observer-blind, randomised managed trialWell being expertise evaluation (Winchester, England)21(12), 1–94.

Workplace for Nationwide Statistics (2023). Gender identification by age and intercourse of standard residents aged 16 years and over in England and Wales, Census 2021 information

Herring, G.T., Loades, M.E., Higson-Sweeney N. et al. (2021). The expertise of cognitive behavioural remedy in depressed adolescents who’re fatigued. Psychol Psychother Principle Res Pract.

Nyer, M., Mischoulon, D., Alpert, J. E., Holt, D. J., Brill, C. D., Yeung, A., Pedrelli, P., Baer, L., Dording, C., Huz, I., Fisher, L., Fava, M., & Farabaugh, A. (2015). Faculty college students with depressive signs with and with out fatigue: Variations in functioning, suicidality, nervousness, and depressive severityAnnals of Medical Psychiatry: Official Journal of the American Academy of Medical Psychiatrists27(2), 100–108.

WordRobinson, R. L., Stephenson, J. J., Dennehy, E. B., Grabner, M., Faries, D., Palli, S. R., & Swindle, R. W. (2015). The significance of unresolved fatigue in melancholy: prices and comorbiditiesPsychosomatics56(3), 274-285.

Watson, R., Harvey, Okay., Go, L., et al. (2021). A qualitative research exploring adolescents’ expertise of temporary behavioural activation for melancholy and its impression on the symptom of anhedonia. Psychol Psychother Principle Res Pract 94:266–288.

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