Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at December 8, 2015

We all struggle from being worn-our or drained from time to time. However, these instances are usually short in nature and can be alleviated by simply getting enough rest. Lassitude, in contrast, is more intense. It is characterized by a more chronic form of exhaustion that lasts for longer periods of time and reduces your physical and mental capabilities. This level of fatigue impacts your health on a deeper level. Lassitude is sometimes a symptom of a serious medical condition, but it can be a result of an unhealthy lifestyle.


Definition & Facts

Simply defined, lassitude is extreme exhaustion. Whether physical or mental, lassitude is characterized by a fatigue that may not be relieved by periods of rest. While there are times when we all experience exhaustion or fatigue, lassitude is categorized by a chronic fatigue that affects the mental or physical capacity.

Physical lassitude prevents the muscles from functioning to their maximum capacity and is exacerbated by intense physical exercise. Mental lassitude results in a decrease in cognitive function, which leads to a decreased level of consciousness or attention deficit.


While lassitude is not classified as a medical disorder, it is often a symptom of a more serious problem. The underlying problems can be physical, psychological, or related to lifestyle. The conditions below are often characterized by lassitude.

  • Lifestyle Factors – Many unhealthy lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking, unhealthy eating habits, lack of sleep, unusual physical or mental exertion, and caffeine use can cause lassitude.
  • Iron deficiency anemia - This disorder occurs when red blood cells don’t have the capacity to move oxygen throughout the body. In order to move oxygen throughout the blood stream, iron must be present in sufficient quantities. Since the muscles and brain require oxygen to do work, they cannot perform at maximum capacity if you have an iron deficiency. Lassitude is one of the major symptoms of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes occurs when the body does not have enough insulin to carry glucose (blood sugar) into the body’s cells. If glucose is not carried into the cells, it builds up in the blood stream, causing a variety of symptoms such as thirst, and hunger, blurred vision, and lassitude. While the exact cause of lassitude is unknown, it may be caused by the body’s lack of energy provided by the glucose.
  • Congestive heart failure – Lassitude is also a common symptom of congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart fails to pump properly. Since oxygen is provided through the bloodstream, this leads to a lack of oxygen throughout the body. Symptoms include lassitude, shortness of breath, and weight gain.

When to see a doctor

Lassitude is not the same as simple fatigue. If you find yourself being excessively tired, first try getting more rest, eating properly, and implementing stress reduction techniques. If these remedies do not work of if the fatigue persists for several weeks, you should see a physician.

However, you should seek immediate attention if your extreme fatigue is accompanied by severe pain, bleeding, loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat. You should also see a doctor is you experience swelling in your neck or armpit glands along with extreme exhaustion.

Fatigue, frequent urination, and blurred vision are also causes to see a physician as they could be indicative of diabetes. Since there is not a medical doctor that specializes in lassitude, you may find yourself seeing a variety of physicians based on your symptoms. The following specialist are often seen for lassitude issues: sleep specialists, endocrinologists, neurologists, and psychologists.

Treatment & Therapy

Since treatment of lassitude depends on the underlying cause, most treatment plans will focus on treating the symptom of extreme fatigue. If depression is the cause of the lassitude, then anti-depressants are often used for its treatment. Anti-depressants can help patients cope with problems associated with lassitude. Low doses of some anti-depressants can also help improve sleep patterns.

When the cause of lassitude is insomnia, or a lack of sleep, sleep aids are sometimes prescribed. It is impossible to function optimally physically and psychologically if you are never well rested. Therapy is often used to treat lassitude. Effective therapy usually includes both exercise and psychological counseling. A physical therapist may be involved in developing an optimal exercise program. This program will include range-of motion, stretching, and cardiovascular exercises.

The purpose of the exercise program is to gradually increase strength and endurance over time. Psychological counseling is used to help the patient cope with the challenges that lassitude imposes on everyday life. If your lifestyle is contributing to lassitude, then treatment options could include improving sleeping habits. This could include strategies such as establishing regular sleeping patterns, limiting napping, and avoiding stimulants.

Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and prescribed stimulants should be avoided. Stress reduction strategies should also be put in place. These strategies should include stress reduction and relaxation techniques.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Since lassitude has a multitude of underlying causes, prevention is best achieved by avoiding the underlying cause whether they are physical, psychological, or lifestyle related. Medical conditions that lead to lassitude can be prevented by routine medical examinations.

Most medical conditions that present with extreme fatigue can be picked up during a yearly physical exam. If you have not had an exam in the past 12 months, please schedule an appointment immediately with your private physician or local public health care clinic. The leading cause of psychologically associated lassitude is depression. It is important that you check with your health care provider is you experience symptoms of depression such as, sadness, lack of sleep, too much sleep, lack of appetite, or a feeling of hopelessness.

Depression is a treatable illness that can be managed with medication and therapy. Since unhealthy lifestyle choices are a common cause of lassitude, it is important that we make healthy lifestyle choices. Healthy choices include limiting alcohol consumption, getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and exercising regularly.