The Mighty Logo

24 Signs You're Not 'Just Tired,' You Have Chronic Fatigue

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

If you struggle with chronic fatigue, you’ve likely been in a situation where you’re trying to express how you feel and a healthy person responds, “Yeah, I’m a bit tired today, too. Mondays, right?” The problem with this response, and the reason it can be frustrating to hear, is because chronic fatigue is so much more than just feeling “tired.”

Chronic fatigue can be a symptom of a wide variety of chronic illnesses, and is different than chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis – a disease with its own particular set of symptoms. Chronic fatigue may involve feeling sleepy, but the weariness and exhaustion is generally more severe and debilitating than the tiredness a healthy person may feel after not getting enough sleep one night. Chronic fatigue can also give rise to other symptoms, such as pain, muscle tremors, sensitivity to stimuli or brain fog. This can make it difficult and at times impossible to go about your daily routine – whether that means going to work, cooking dinner or even taking a shower.

To better understand the everyday effects of chronic fatigue, we asked our Mighty community to share signs that indicate they are experiencing chronic fatigue, and aren’t “just tired.” Although others typically have good intentions when they try to empathize, a lack of awareness about the differences between fatigue and tiredness can actually leave chronic warriors feeling isolated and misunderstood. Share this with your friends and loved ones to help explain what chronic fatigue is really like, and check with a doctor for more insight if these symptoms look familiar to you.

Here’s what the community shared with us:

1.It. Never. Ends. You go to bed tired and wake up tired. You feel like your bones are made of lead and your head of granite. And no matter how much sleep you get, it never goes away.” – Cat L.

2.When your body feels like you’ve just run a marathon when in reality you just woke up from sleeping eight-plus hours.” – Marie A.

3.When I start watching reruns of shows I’ve seen countless times before. My brain can’t handle any new information when I’m at my worst so I fall back on my favorite shows where it doesn’t matter if I space out or fall asleep for a bit.” – Kelly W.

4.It often feels like the day before you get sick for me. Body aches, major fatigue, etc. When I’m tired, I can still push through and function. Fatigue completely knocks me out.” – Kristen E.

5.Having to constantly lean against something or have something to prop against or I’ll just keel over! Not enough energy to keep [my] eyes open or to even talk/type. Giving my life up to work and spending any ‘free’ time recovering.” – Mandy W.

6. “‘Coma naps.’ I call them that because my intention was just to rest for 15 minutes to 30 minutes. However, eyes shut and into a deep sleep I have gone. That turns into three to six hours… and it only feels like a five-minute nap. Because when I wake up, I’m still as exhausted as when I laid to rest from the first time and my body decided to go into a deep ‘coma sleep’ out of my control.” – Dee’Di C.

7.When I start to feel almost feverish. Where I am exhausted and my body starts to ache and I feel kind of cold and hot. If I don’t lie down and sleep I will become so exhausted I can’t get up, literally.” – Ariel B.

8.I don’t have the energy to raise my head, let alone my arms (or fingers). My eyes burn. The thought of a shower makes me want to run in fear. I don’t dress that day (or cook). I’d rather be hungry than use the energy to clean/cook.” – Anjuli H.

9.When I get confused over the smallest things. When my speech becomes slurred. When I start losing grip and dropping everything. When my limbs feel like they are heavy and like they have 10-ton weights attached. When I can’t wake up in the morning. When I can’t stand in the shower or lift my arms to wash my hair. When no matter how much sleep I get, every part of me is exhausted. Tiredness is so easy to cure. Have a nap or a good night’s sleep and you wake refreshed and eager to take on a brand new day. Fatigue is never-ending and you can’t get away from it.” – Shireen H.

10.When you are tired it’s hard to get going, when it’s fatigue it’s downright painful to do anything. You can down coffee till your heart feels like it’s going to burst but you’re still going to move in slow motion.” – Niki D.

11.My muscles begin to twitch and my body begins to ache. If I don’t get in the bed, those muscles that were twitching begin to spasm. In addition to the spasms and body soreness, I begin to go very pale with my face being the first to lose color.” – Leeana C.

12.When I can’t speak. The words are in my head but I can’t make my mouth say anything. Also dropping things and the tight-chested feeling caused by cramping type pains in my diaphragm.” – Sarah S.

13.I start not being able to think things through. I’ll think of something simple I need to do, like going to more than one store, and my mind sort of shuts down, as if I can’t see from here to there. I’ll also get that feeling of fish hooks in my skin with lead weights pulling me down. And I’ll start feeling like something is crawling on my skin but will go to scratch and nothing is there. I lose my coping skills buffer zone, emotionally, so something that yesterday I could have handled, today reduces me to tears.” – Corey H.

14.Sleep doesn’t refresh you. Even the little things cause a fight-or-flight response, even simple things you would normally enjoy doing. Being overwhelmed by everything, even fun things. A week feels like a day. Eating feels like too much work. You don’t feel like reality is anything more than a dream happening outside of your head. Cancelling plans is a relief instead of a disappointment.” – Sarah L.

15. “[I] go to bed at 10 p.m. and if I don’t set an alarm I’ll wake up at 3 p.m. the next day and still feel tired, even if I’ve done nothing the day before.” – Nae W.

16.My brain feels like it’s shutting down. I can’t verbalize my thoughts, my neck can’t support the weight of my head and if I don’t lay down immediately, I will fall down.” – Shaun M.

17.Getting that super exhausted feeling that seems to emanate from the stomach area; it gets so bad that I’ll have to sit down just after walking across the house because it feels like it’s sapped all my energy.” – Bonnie P.

18.When I am about to crash it feels like a heavy pull. Starts at my chest then moves into the rest of my body until I cannot move or keep my eyes open. A severe fatigue episode is like being trapped in my body unable to move, unable to respond when anyone talks to me and I am doing everything I can to just keep breathing. To my family I look like I am sleeping but I am wide awake and trapped. My husband can now tell when I am in a fatigue because my breathing is so deep.” – Margaret S.

19.Family members have witnessed what happens when I have had too much stimulation from a visit or have done too much. I can be attempting to engage in conversation one minute and the next, my eyes glaze over and I disappear, I am no longer me. I never realized it was so visible of a change. These are the few folks who understand that I am truly sick.” – Barbara L.M.

20.When you have to have a five-minute pep talk to convince yourself to get up and go to the bathroom before you have an accident. Really. You are literally trying to convince yourself you aren’t as tired as you obviously are or that at least once you’re there you can rest without the danger of soiling yourself and having to shower, which is a whole new ordeal.” – Bin T.

21. “My body feels super sensitive, like I can feel every drop of water in the shower and if I hear a loud noise my vision gets brighter for a split second too.” – Kathryn R.

22.When you wake up and your whole body feels like you’ve been in a major car accident or someone has come along and beat you with a cricket bat in your sleep…” – Steve H.

23.Your entire body feels like there is cement running through your veins instead of blood.” – Donna-Jean I.

24.I always know when I try to get ready to go somewhere. If I completely exhaust myself trying to do my hair or makeup, I know it’s chronic fatigue. If I can get through getting ready and still have energy, I know it’s ‘just tired!’” – Jordan T.

Originally published: February 15, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home