User Avatar KopaSep 17, 2020

How People with Chronic Illness Cope with Fatigue

Ever since Lori D. was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, there have been days she’s so knocked out, she can’t even get out of her car on her own. “Sounds ridiculous every time I say it,” she admits, “but it’s true. It feels like that moment on the Tilt-a-Whirl right before the big spin—I have that kind of weightless, nauseous feeling. Combined with that feeling you get after you’ve had one too many drinks. Combined with Benadryl-level sleepiness.”

According to a recent study, around 50 percent of people with psoriasis and 50 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis report experience fatigue—30 percent of people with psoriatic arthritis say their fatigue is severe. Fatigue related to these conditions may be caused by a number of factors, though doctors are not able to pinpoint exactly why it strikes. Proteins called inflammatory cytokines, which promote inflammation, could be to blame. Or it could be the exhaustion caused by living with chronic pain and flare-ups; or, the fatigue could be a side effect of taking certain medications. For example, biologic drugs (produced from or containing components of living organisms) such as Enbrel or Remicade may weaken your immune system, which in turn may make your body have to work much harder to keep you healthy.

“It’s not a ‘regular’ tired, it’s almost flu-like,” explains Katie Willard Virant, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., a psychotherapist in St. Louis and author of Psychology Today’s monthly blog Chronically Me: The Emotional Landscape of Chronic Illness. “It’s hard to explain to people.”

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