In all of the articles and blog posts out there about anxiety, hardly any of them talk about what happens after a panic attack or a prolonged episode of anxiety. Nobody mentions the drained feeling that can last from hours to days afterwards. Anxiety fatigue is a real symptom that is largely ignored in mental health related media and that often causes calamitous problems for those afflicted.
Anxiety fatigue is something I would notice in myself after a panic attack. I didn't think much of it because it wasn't something I had heard or read about. After looking into it, however, I did find a few articles written about it. Calm Clinic has the most information about fatigue as a symptom of anxiety. One of Calm Clinic's articles even talks about how anxiety fatigue can affect modern living. Healthy Place has a blog post about what it's like to deal with anxiety fatigue.
When anxiety leaves you feeling drained, exhausted, and even apathetic, that's anxiety fatigue. It's your body's natural response to everything that's going on physically and psychologically during a panic attack or a prolonged period of anxiety. An article from Calm Clinic says that this fatigue is caused by:
The crash after the rush of adrenaline you get during a panic attack
The muscle tension caused by anxiety
Your brain resting after all those racing thoughts during the anxiety spiral
Your body trying to get you to rest in order to prevent severe stress
The habit of sleeping when you're tired
The lack of sleep due to staying up late or waking up in the middle of the night when you're anxious
Temporary depression after a panic attack
Your body is also trying to recoup from the surge of high-stress hormones going through it during anxiety.
I would also like to note that fatigue is not simply drowsiness or wanting to sleep. HealthCentral says that fatigue is a lack of energy and motivation. Drowsiness can also be a symptom of fatigue. The blog post on healthyplace.com that I mentioned equates the words "Bone-weary, bushed, all in, dazed, dopey, depleted, drugged. Washed-up, worn-out, dozy, dreamy. Soporific, sluggish, torpid, tuckered, done." with fatigue. This is more than just the need or want for more sleep.
Sleep and anxiety can also cause a vicious cycle. According to Livestrong, anxiety causes fatigue, which makes it more difficult to handle stressful situations. This causes stress to build up, making you more anxious. According to Calm Clinic's "Anxiety Fatigue and How it Affects Modern Living" article, anxiety fatigue can make it more difficult to stay in touch and keep up social networks, keep up-to-date on news and trends, concentrate and keep up with your busy schedule, do your best in the job market, and maintain a healthy family life. The inability to keep up with your life can also cause more anxiety, thus continuing the cycle and making you feel like you're falling behind in life.
Dealing with and preventing anxiety fatigue means stopping the cycle. All of the articles I read gave tips on how to combat it:
Set aside some time each day (maybe 30 minutes) to devote to anxious thoughts. This reduces the draining thoughts to a shorter period of time.
Set aside some time each day to relax, just by sitting quietly, listening to relaxing music, or even taking a short nap. I like to take this time to color.
Instead of drinking caffeine or alcohol, or using drugs (all of which can increase anxiety), try exercising a few times a week (which helps increase your energy over time).
Music can also help increase your energy levels.
Before bed, try a relaxation technique like meditation, visualization, or progressive muscle relaxation.
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each night and morning.
Keep your bedroom dark at night and the temperature moderate.
Make sure your diet is well-balanced. Lean proteins, fruits & vegetables, and whole grains can give you fatigue-fighting nutrients. Also, drink plenty of water.
If anxiety fatigue is affecting your social life, be open and honest about it. Try to stay socially active anyway. Be kind an patient with others. Maintaining positive relationships can also combat anxiety.