When you think of ADD or ADHD, you might think of traits such as hyperactivity, being easily distracted, hyperfocus, and being chaotic. One symptom that is sometimes overlooked, is fatigue. What is the connection between ADHD or ADD symptoms and fatigue? And how can we ensure that – with our overactive brain (and body) – we do not get tired? Here you can read everything about ADHD/ADD & fatigue. We will share our tips
Fatigue is often overlooked as ADHD symptom
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of ADD and ADHD, something which is not always recognized. Much more attention is paid to the restless, chaotic and impulsive side of the diagnosis. But all the challenges that come with having an ‘AD(H)D brain' can cause extreme fatigue. If you feel like your batteries are constantly empty, you are not alone! As an ADHD person you can feel like a walking tornado. This is costing you a lot of energy and is therefore quite tiring. I know everything about it…
ADD/ADHD and tiredness; a downward spiral
While everyone experiences fatigue and exhaustion from time to time, some of us suffer from extreme fatigue and prolonged exhaustion. In some cases, this can even lead to burnout. Earlier, I wrote an article about the (possible) connection between ADD and burnout. Because it happened to me. When I was 26, I suffered from burnout, and soon after I got diagnosed with ADD. I did not feel exhausted for a day or a week, but the fatigue lasted for months, even years.
If you don't manage your AD(H)D symptoms (yet), you could end up in a downward spiral. The fatigue makes it even more difficult to concentrate or to start things, for example at work or during your studies. The ADHD symptoms, together with the fatigue, make you lose all your energy.
ADHD and fatigue: a downward spiral
Constant fatigue is often accompanied by other problems, such as headaches and loss of concentration. Someone with AD(H)D already has trouble concentrating. The tiredness makes it even more difficult to focus (for a longer period of time). You soon find yourself in a downward spiral. Tiredness, loss of concentration, gloom and perhaps feelings of guilt (‘why am I not able do this?') follow up one another.
Why is someone with ADHD or ADD more easily tired?
Feeling constantly tired or even exhausted with your AD(H)D brain can have various causes. Think of hyperactivity, sleeping problems, excessive worrying and drug use.
Possible reasons for fatigue caused by ADHD or ADD
- Hyperactivity. Our bodies and minds are only able to handle a certain amount of activity. If we continuously use a lot of energy, due to hyperactivity, we get tired or exhausted faster.
- Hyperfocus. Working in the hyperfocus also expends a lot of energy. In addition, the hyperfocus can make us forget to eat or take a break. Our body does not get the chance to recover from all the work we do (and therefore the energy we use).
- Sleeping problems, insomnia. Many children and adults with AD(H)D suffer from sleeping problems. I myself had sleeping problems all my life, until I received some guidance for this. Thanks to various tools that I was given, and alternative therapies such as aromatherapy and Reiki, I ‘learned how to sleep'. When we don't get enough sleep, our body misses the opportunity to recover, and to replenish the energy. If you have sleeping problems, it is essential to do something about it. Read all about natural sleep supplements here, which may (temporarily) support you in your sleep.
Other possible “ADHD causes” of fatigue
- Worry. Everyone worries from time to time, but someone with a Wandering Mind or ADHD brain might do this just a bit more. When we worry, or simply use our brain, we use a lot of energy. Are we unable to turn off our thinking mind? Is it difficult for us to achieve deep relaxation in between activities? Then there is a good chance that we will get tired or exhausted.
- Medication. ADHD medication can also cause exhaustion. Even the best medication can cause side effects. Medications such as Ritalin, Methylphenidate and Dexamfetamine helped me improve my concentration. But when the medicine wore off at the end of the day, I experienced the rebound and felt completely exhausted. Fortunately (for me and for many) there are also natural supplements that can help us manage our ADHD symptoms. In general, we will experience fewer side effects, because these supplements support the natural process in our body.
- Working overtime. Our performance society is not really designed for people with AD(H)D. Burning the candle on both sides to make ends meet and additionally trying to be a good mother, partner or friend can be destructive to our health and our balance. Since we are hyperactive with our ‘ADHD brains' and regularly use our hyperfocus, we are particularly vulnerable to these effects.
ADD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a chronic condition in which people feel constantly fatigued, tired and are lacking energy. People with CFS suffer from headaches, concentration problems, pain and cognitive problems.
The latest studies show that people with CFS can sometimes also meet the criteria for ADHD. Both conditions are characterized by inattention, lack of concentration and forgetfulness. More specifically, people with ADHD inattention type (ADD) are prone to this overlap with CFS. For example, Spanish researchers decided to test their CFS patients for ADHD. Of the 158 people with CFS surveyed, 30 percent were eligible to be diagnosed with ADHD as a child. 21% also met the criteria as adults (Psychologie Magazine).
What Causes ADHD and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
CFS and ADHD can both be caused by the brain not properly regulating certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine or serotonin. This makes it harder for the brain to focus or concentrate. This symptom can be seen in people with CFS as well as in ADHD.
Chronically fatigued by ADD or ADHD?
If left untreated, ADD or ADHD could develop into CFS. ADD is, unlike ADHD, often overlooked, mainly in women but also in men. Some people with ADD may exhibit calmer and more passive behavior, so this is not immediately recognized like ADHD is. The inattentive ADHD type (ADD) is characterized by difficulty concentrating, daydreaming, and slowness in speech and behavior.
Tips for tiredness as an AD(H)D symptom
If you show signs of AD(H)D – whether diagnosed or not – and you're fatigued, it's important to do something about it. In this way, you avoid ending up in the downward spiral, where fatigue and AD(H)D negatively reinforce each other. You may even become chronically fatigued or burned out.
The following tips, which we share with you from our own experience, will help you get to grips with your ADHD symptoms and your energy level.
Tip 1. Learn to deal with stress
To avoid falling into the downward spiral of the ADD symptoms and fatigue, it's important to find ways to limit the impact of stress on your life. Stress has negative effects on our health. For example, it affects our mood and behavior, raises our blood pressure and can even cause heart disease and obesity. It also has a major influence on ADHD and ADD symptoms and on our sleeping pattern. Stress directly and indirectly causes fatigue.
Some tips for dealing with stress
- Find out what causes stress in your life, and make a list of them. For example, is your work causing you stress in any way? Or do you mainly experience stress in social interactions, family, finances and/or time management, organization and administration?
- Then find tools and strategies to combat that stress. You may want to change jobs. Maybe your current job or the organization you work at, just doesn't fit your personality and skills (anymore). If so, research what job might be a good fit for you as an ADHD person.
- Do you have stress in other areas of your life, for example your personal relationships? Go to (relationship) therapy or follow a mindfulness course. This course has had a huge positive impact on our lives. Not only did we get more peace of mind. We also gained more insight into ourselves, learned to relax and became less fatigued as a result.
- Make sure you relax regularly. Do you find it difficult to relax? Try yoga, Yoga Nidra, Tai Chi or any form of meditation. Connect to nature, walk barefoot, massage yourself or do breathing exercises. Doing fun things with friends, going to the spa regularly or getting a massage regularly can also help us relax.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy is also a way to learn to deal with stress and tension. Learn what your limiting beliefs are and embrace new, healthy, and helpful beliefs.
Tip 2. Improve your sleep
When we don't sleep well , it affects all facets of our lives. I know from experience. Until my ADD diagnosis, I never fell asleep before 2am. A night with 4 hours of sleep, was a good night. I was always tired. Stress affects our sleep, but our AD(H)D can also make it difficult for us to fall asleep or to sleep through the night.
So make sure you sleep well. In an earlier blog post, I shared my tips for better sleep. Developing an evening ritual was essential for me to be able to sleep well. Are you considering taking sleep medication? You may want to try natural sleep supplements first.
Tip 3. The right nutrition to fight exhaustion
Our diet has a major impact on almost every aspect of our health. Nutrition plays a crucial role in ADHD/ADD symptoms such as fatigue. If you just put junk in your body — such as refined sugar, refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, pizza and cookies, sweets and other processed foods and junk foods — you will not only worsen your ADD/ADHD symptoms, but you will also get tired faster.
Eating regular and healthy meals – such as meals with fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, other legumes and other unprocessed foods – will have a positive influence on your AD(H)D symptoms such as fatigue.
Tip 4. Get plenty of exercise
Not only sleeping well and eating well are crucial if you want to tackle ADD and ADHD symptoms such as fatigue. It is also important to get enough exercise every day. When we are tired, we often think that we have no energy to exercise or exercise. At such a moment we plop on the couch, and we turn on a Netflix series.
But it's important to be active if you regularly feel tired. Fatigue as a symptom of ADHD often has a mental character. You may have enough energy physically, but because you are mentally exhausted, you think you need rest physically as well.
Exercise releases endorphins in our brains, which help us focus better and make our body feel and function better in general. If we exercise regularly, we also sleep better. This benefits your energy level.
So make time for sports or exercise. You really don't have to go to the gym every day and run a marathon every week. Taking a daily walk can make all the difference for your ADD symptoms such as fatigue.
Tip 5. Natural supplements to manage ADHD symptoms
Some children and adults with AD(H)D benefit from the use of medication; people with both good and challenging experiences with medication regularly share their experience in our Dutch community. If you think that medication can help you manage your energy and experience less fatigue, please contact your doctor or psychiatrist. Medication can help you to manage AD(H)D symptoms, and this can have a positive impact on your energy level.
If medication isn't working for you, or you're experiencing too many side effects, there are natural supplements to help you get to grips with ADHD symptoms.
Combating fatigue in a holistic way
If you suffer from fatigue, it is important that you address the ADD/ADHD symptoms and that you will learn to manage them. In recent years, we have experienced how important it is to take responsibility for this ourselves. We can use the tools that are given to us, such as therapy and medication, but ultimately we have to do it ourselves. It requires willpower; something that we, as Wandering Minds, usually have no shortage of.
If you are looking for sustainable change in managing your ADHD symptoms such as fatigue, you could change your lifestyle slowly, at your own pace. For us, it was important to see our ADHD from a holistic perspective, to learn a lot about ourselves, our body and our mind and to gradually improve our lifestyle and habits. We started to eat better and better, for example by minimizing our refined sugar coffee – gluten and dairy intake. We also improved our routine, for example by eating our meals at the same time every day and by fitting in an evening ritual. In addition to that, we learned more and more about our bodies, our brains and our needs. Several supplements supported us. By looking at our ADHD from a holistic perspective, we found more and more balance.
What will you do to combat fatigue?
Hopefully you will find inspiration on this website to improve your energy level, to manage your ADHD symptoms and to combat fatigue. What will you change to experience less fatigue and improve your energy level? Or would you like to share a tip for fellow Wandering Minds? Sharing is caring, please post your message below, in the comments.