Does Anxiety Make You Tired?

Imagine it’s Friday and you've just finished a long day at work or school, and you're looking forward to meeting your friend for dinner later.

As you walk to your car, you almost forget about the lump in your throat and the knot in your stomach.

You feel your heart begin to race again, but you're not sure why. You get into your car and start the engine, but you can't shake that uneasy feeling. As you drive home, your mind races, and by the time you pull into your driveway, you feel exhausted. Even though you've hardly done anything physical all day, you can’t help but crawl into bed, cancel your dinner plans, and shut out the world.

For the millions of people worldwide living with anxiety, this is a familiar story.

Characterized by persistent feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension, anxiety is a common experience that can take a toll on all aspects of a person’s life. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.

Along with anxiety, levels of fatigue in America are also rising. According to the National Sleep Foundation, Americans feel tired about three times a week.

Tiredness can manifest in different ways, ranging from mild sleepiness to severe exhaustion that can interfere with daily activities and tasks.

Anxiety and fatigue are closely related, with one often exacerbating the other. Keep reading to discover exactly why this occurs.

The Science Behind Anxiety and Tiredness

When a person feels anxious, their body experiences a cascade of biological responses commonly referred to as the "fight or flight" response. This response is an evolutionary adaptation designed to help us respond to perceived threats by either fighting off the danger or fleeing from it. There is also a third stress response, which is often overlooked, known as the “freeze” response.

This occurs when the brain decides that fighting or escaping is not an option, causing an inability to move or the body will shut down, remain still, and feel numb. When we experience anxiety, our brain perceives a threat, whether it's real or imagined, and sends signals to the body to prepare for action.

One of the key biological changes that occur during anxiety is the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, from the adrenal glands. These hormones increase heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration, providing the body with more oxygen and glucose to fuel physical activity.

The body also diverts blood away from the digestive system and towards the muscles, which can cause feelings of nausea or butterflies in the stomach.

Another biological change that occurs during anxiety is increased muscle tension. This is due to the body's preparation for physical activity, as the muscles become tense and ready to spring into action. Increased muscle tension can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, jaw pain, and back pain.

Want to learn more about the science behind anxiety? Check out our free eBook, The Framework. It used to be on Amazon, now it’s free!

3 Key Ways Anxiety Leads to Fatigue

If you find yourself feeling inexplicably tired or fatigued despite getting a full night's sleep, or, if you struggle to concentrate or feel irritable throughout the day, you may be suffering from symptoms of anxiety-induced fatigue.

The symptoms of anxiety-induced fatigue can be easily mistaken for the effects of a poor night’s sleep or a normal grogginess. However, if the tiredness coincides with feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension, consider the possibility of fatigue caused by anxiety.

The biological responses that are triggered by anxiety can lead to fatigue in several ways:

  • First, the release of cortisol and adrenaline can disrupt normal sleep patterns, causing insomnia or poor-quality sleep. When these stress hormones are released, they can lead to feelings of fatigue and daytime sleepiness, even if a person has slept for a full night.
  • Second, the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as increased heart rate, muscle tension, and rapid breathing, can be physically exhausting. The body expends energy to maintain these physical responses, which causes further feelings of tiredness and fatigue.
  • Finally, the chronic activation of the stress response caused by anxiety can lead to a condition known as "adrenal fatigue." This occurs when the adrenal glands become overworked and depleted from constant stimulation, which can result in fatigue, weakness, and difficulty concentrating.

Effects of Anxiety-Induced Fatigue

While it’s normal to feel anxious or tired from time to time, persistent anxiety-induced fatigue can lead to significant effects on the body and mind, both in the short and long term.

Short-Term Effects of Anxiety-Induced Fatigue

In the short term, anxiety-induced fatigue can cause symptoms such as tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.

It can make it challenging to complete daily tasks or engage in social interactions. These symptoms can impact the quality of life and lead to decreased productivity and missed opportunities.

Long-Term Effects of Anxiety

Chronic anxiety can have more severe effects on the body and mind. It can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and digestive problems.

Chronic anxiety can also have an impact on the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses and infections.

4 Ways to Manage Anxiety and Fatigue

It’s essential to recognize the symptoms of anxiety-induced fatigue (and anxiety in general) and seek professional help when necessary.

There are several strategies for managing anxiety, including:

1. Self-Help

Research shows self-help tools are often enough for people to overcome mild to moderate mental health difficulties without professional support. If you’re interested in pursuing the self-help route, be sure to check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit.

The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit

2. Lifestyle Changes

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, reducing caffeine intake, and good sleep habits can help reduce anxiety symptoms.

Exercise can promote better sleep by regulating the body's circadian rhythms and promoting relaxation, while simultaneously releasing endorphins which naturally boost mood and reduce stress levels.

A healthy, well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can help reduce anxiety by providing the body with the nutrients it needs to function properly. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and walnuts, have also been shown to have a calming effect on the brain.

Good sleep hygiene practices, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and creating a relaxing sleep environment, can also help promote restful sleep and reduce anxiety.

In addition, some people find it helpful to take supplements for anxiety. Supplements that have been researched for their potential anti-anxiety effects include ashwagandha, valerian root and omega-3 fatty acids.

Want practical tools to help you implement lifestyle changes? Be sure to check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit.

3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

CBT is a type of psychotherapy that focuses on changing unhelpful thought patterns and behaviors. CBT can help individuals identify and challenge thoughts and beliefs that contribute to their anxiety.

A mental health professional can work with you to develop a treatment plan for your anxiety-induced tiredness and help you track your progress.

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4. Medication

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, and beta-blockers may help you manage the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.


Anxiety can cause physical symptoms that can be exhausting, such as muscle tension, rapid heart rate, and shallow breathing. Additionally, anxiety can cause a person to have sleep disturbances like trouble falling or staying asleep, leading to further fatigue.

Conversely, tiredness can make it more difficult to manage anxiety symptoms, leading to a vicious cycle of exhaustion and anxiety. Understanding the link between tiredness and anxiety is important for those living with an anxiety.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.

It’s likely that this statistic is closely related to the rising rates of anxiety, as anxiety can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including chronic fatigue and tiredness.

A lack of sleep has a negative impact on physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing.

Understanding the symptoms of anxiety-induced fatigue and implementing strategies such as self-help, lifestyle changes, CBT or medications, can help you improve your overall energy levels and reduce the impact of anxiety on your daily life.

Self-Guided Support for Anxiety

Research shows that self-help materials are often enough for people to overcome mild to moderate mental health difficulties without professional support.

If you’re interested in a self-guided program that includes tools from CBT, DBT, ACT and more, be sure to check out The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit. It's "like 10 therapy sessions in one."

The Mental Wellbeing Toolkit


About Lindsey

Lindsey Rae is a Certified Health and Life Coach and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She is currently the Teen & Adult Mental Health Clinical Director at Clear Behavioral Health.

In addition to her Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, she has also completed a specialized study in Addiction and Eating Disorders at The Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies.

An ever-evolving student and teacher who’s compassionately driven journey to healing her own trauma led to a dynamic career in the pursuit of helping others.