Depression and chronic fatigue syndrome, although different, may actually be linked. In both conditions, the patient will feel extremely fatigued, regardless of the sleep quality the night before. It is possible that a patient may have depression and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) simultaneously, or mistake one condition for the other. It’s important to recognize the key difference between depression and CFS in order to receive a proper diagnosis.
Depression is the feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness experienced for extended periods of time. Depressed individuals often have difficulty sleeping or may not sleep at all.
In CFS, the patient feels extremely fatigued even when well rested, and there is no explainable cause of this fatigue. CFS is often misdiagnosed and taken for depression, according to research findings.
Although depression and chronic fatigue syndrome are often mistaken for each other, there are distinct differences that set each one apart. Symptoms of depression include experiencing continuous feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness, feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless, losing interest in once loved hobbies, eating too much or too little, having difficulty concentrating or making decisions, having headaches, cramps, stomach pains, and other types of pain.
Symptoms of CFS include headaches, joint pain, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, and sore throat.
Depression and CFS can affect patients differently, depending on their daily activities. Depressed patients will feel tired and indifferent to activates. CFS patients want to engage in activities, but are too tired to carry them through.
In order to properly diagnose CFS, it’s important that your doctor rules out other conditions that have similar symptoms.
In order to distinguish between depression and CFS, doctors will often use guidelines from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders commonly used for diagnosing mental disorders. The guidelines look for the following risk factors:
Depressed mood: Depressed patients cannot identify their source of depression, while CFS patients report depression due to being too tired to complete activities.
Diminished interest in activities: Depressed patients lose interest in activities, CFS patients want to complete activities but are too tired to do so.
Weight loss and decreased appetite: Depressed patients may lose interest in food, CFS patients want food but find meal preparation exhausting.
Insomnia: Depressed patients report insufficient or excessive sleep, CFS patients’ sleep is unrefreshing regardless of the number of hours of sleep they’ve had.
Fatigue or loss of energy: Depressed patients will report fatigue no matter what they do – all tasks are viewed as equally difficult. CFS patients experience overwhelming fatigue, and although they wish to do activities, they simply cannot.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt: Guilt in depression is often delusional, CFS patients experience guilt due to being unable to do things.
Diminished ability to think or concentrate: In depressed patients, their problem concentrating improves with treatment, CFS patients do not benefit from antidepressants.
Thoughts of death and suicide: Depressed patients may think of death and have suicidal thoughts, CFS patients who develop depression may experience the same.
Medical complaints: Both depressed and CFS patients report medical conditions like pain.
Some treatment methods for depression include talk therapy and medications. Talk therapy can include cognitive behavioral therapy, problem-solving therapy, and interpersonal therapy. Talk therapy helps you recognize any underlying issues and discuss them with a professional to come up with solutions and provide you with strategies to deal with upcoming and future situations that may arise. You can also work through your current feelings as a means of properly dealing with them in a healthy matter.
Medications for depression include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs). If a medication is unsuccessful, your doctor may change the type you are on or prescribe a different dosage that may be more effective.
Here are some tips to manage your CFS flare-ups.
To better cope with depression and fatigue it’s important to: