Recovery Messages & News

Fatigue in Healing

By The HUM Team

Often when people enter recovery for Addiction and mental health challenges they report high levels of fatigue that can be brief, episodic, or long-term concerns. Below we address a few common questions regarding this experience of fatigue.

Q: “I am embarking on a journey of healing from Addiction and mental health concerns. I find that I am tired all the time. Is this normal?”

Tiredness or fatigue is a common experience as people embark on their recovery journey. Fatigue is part of withdrawal symptoms, together with feelings of amotivation, which commonly happen when one is coming off any drug or changing addictive behaviours.

Q: Is there a physiological basis to the fatigue experienced in recovery?

Physiologically, fatigue is a reflection of the brain starting to work in ways it is not used to. If one is quitting stimulants such as cocaine, nicotine or caffeine, tiredness is a direct chemical withdrawal response. Even with drugs that have a different chemical effect such as sedatives, opioids or hallucinogens, the brain still has to adjust to those substances not being present, hence, withdrawal symptoms and fatigue as the brain normalizes over time. Emotional turmoil and dealing with emotional issues that one may have been avoiding also results in fatigue physiologically.

Fatigue may be particularly prominent in the early days of recovery because of the connection to withdrawal. However, fatigue can emerge at anytime, particularly if there are new parts of your healing that you are exploring. Dealing with issues such as trauma, abuse, neglect, and emotions are very draining and can spike fatigue regardless of where you are at in recovery.

Q: How can I cope with this fatigue?

It is important to get plenty of rest, seek help, and approach recovery with compassion towards oneself regarding needing time to get better rather than expecting things to get better faster. Be generous to yourself and flexible. Take naps if needed, cut down your to-do list, take time off work, and do not try to do too much when feeling so drained. Focus on the basic necessities of self-care and healing, including regular meals, drinking plenty of water, regular sleep times, and incorporating relaxing/rejuvenating rituals into your life such as yoga, meditation, journaling, and mindfulness time (e.g., sitting in a park taking in the scenery).

Most importantly, be patient! Fatigue is not a life-long symptom and will improve, but it might take time.

Wishing you the best in your health and recovery.