3 Ways Psoriatic Arthritis Fatigue And Tiredness Are Alike Yet Different
Last updated: July 2023
Fatigue and tiredness are often mistaken for each other. Typically, it comes from someone who does not have psoriatic arthritis or another chronic illness that mixes the two up. To be honest, until my diagnosis, I was clueless about the differences too.
A look at fatigue and tiredness
Not understanding that the heaviness and fogginess that consumed my body wasn’t a typical symptom of being tired is one reason I took so long to address the issue with my doctor. I felt he would laugh or tell me to go home and exercise. So I waited until it went from an occasional occurrence to something I couldn’t shake.
I have been living with psoriatic arthritis fatigue for 20 years. I had hoped that by now, more people would understand that PsA is more than a rash and joint pain. But little has changed in the awareness of the other symptoms that make our lives difficult. With that said, here are three ways I set the record straight about how tiredness and fatigue are alike yet different.
What are the physical similarities?
Similar physical attributes of tiredness and fatigue are feeling heavy and sluggish. But that’s where the similarities end for me. With tiredness, my body feels better once I get up and get moving. With fatigue, movements that my body is not ready for cause dizziness and make me feel like I will pass out.
While in a fatigue flare, I feel like I am living underwater. Every movement I make is 1,000 times harder, and if moving through water wasn’t hard enough, I also feel like I am wearing a cement suit. The best I can explain fatigue is that while I am pushing to move forward, I feel as though something or someone is pushing me down at the same time.
When I am tired, I can push through or get past the feeling. Fighting against fatigue only leads to more fatigue.
Understanding the mental impact
Whether I am tired or fatigued, important decisions are put on hold. The difference between making those decisions when I am fatigued versus tired is that I don’t always remember the conversation when fatigued. In either case, I am not in a position to make significant decisions.
When I am tired, I make mistakes. Fatigue flares that affect my head, also known as brain fog, put me in a position of not knowing that I should be doing something.
I hear the tick of every minute when I am tired. But time is irrelevant with fatigue. Brain fog has its own time dimension, one that does not work with the real world. Asleep or awake, time just slips by.
How can we treat them?
Tiredness may be overcome with caffeine, a power nap, or practicing better time management. Following an exercise and sleep schedule helps prevent tiredness from becoming a problem. The same cannot be said with fatigue. No amount of sleep or caffeine can lift the fog from our minds or body.
Fatigue has no regard for your perfect sleep schedule. I have had the best sleep schedule for the past year and a half and still couldn’t avoid my latest fatigue flare. Pushing through flares increases not just my level of fatigue but also the duration of the flare. The best thing I can do is to give into my body.
This means staring mindlessly at the television instead of writing because fatigue won’t allow me to sit up, let alone lift my fingers on the keyboard. There are some things I can do that reduce how often I experience fatigue flares, like avoiding foods that trigger inflammation and alcohol. But even that is not a guarantee.
Fatigue is a thief who robs psoriatic arthritis patients of time, thoughts, and ability. How would you describe the difference between PsA fatigue and tiredness?
Do you have any questions about PsA?