Many people refer to depression as a mental illness. In fact, it is a disease of the central nervous system. Although scientists are not 100 percent sure what causes it, it seems to be related to an imbalance of neurotransmitters, a type of chemical in the brain. Depression is a debilitating illness and can even prove fatal if it leads to suicide. Some of the symptoms of depression include an empty or sad mood, sleeping too much or not sleeping enough, over- or under-eating, thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts and lethargy. There are different ways lethargy can show itself.
Sleepiness/Disrupted Sleep Cycle
Many people who are lethargic sleep throughout the night and through most of the day as well. Sleep disorders like this are common with depression. People who suffer from this symptom may actually fall asleep in the middle of a conversation or an activity. This can make driving and handling other heavy pieces of equipment dangerous. This form of lethargy is often related to itself, but it may also be caused by some of the medications used to treat depression. A visit with the doctor can help sort out the cause of sleepiness and resolve the problem.
Lack of Energy
Lack of energy is related to sleepiness, but they are not quite the same thing. A person may lack the energy to complete certain tasks such as going to work, cleaning the house or running errands without necessarily feeling sleepy. People who lack energy usually perform poorly or fail to perform at all. This can lead to trouble holding a job. A depressed, lethargic parent may be unable to care for a young child and may, in the worse case, lose custody until the depression is resolved.
Apathy is a loss of interest. A person who is apathetic may not be sleepy or lack energy, but he or she simply doesn't care about people, pets or activities. For instance, a person may fail to pay the mortgage or other bills because he or she simply doesn't care about being homeless or not having utilities. Apathy is often best overcome by starting an activity whether the person feels like it or not. Once started, the person may find him or herself tolerating or even enjoying the activity. Anti-depressant medication may also reduce apathy.
Depression is a particularly painful illness to handle, especially since many people believe it can be overcome with willpower alone. If you or someone you love experience symptoms of depression such as lethargy for more than two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor. Remember, too, that depression can be treated and that you will soon be back to your normal self.