Feelings of listlessness, or exhaustion, are normal for people to feel on occasion, but persistent feelings of listlessness may be a symptom of an underlying medical condition 1. If you experience chronic listlessness, it's essential to speak with a physician and find the underlying cause of your sluggishness.


Although being tired is a normal biological state, one which encourages more rest and relaxation, exhaustion and feelings of persistent listlessness may indicate a more serious medical condition 1. Feelings of listlessness can result from a wide variety of emotional, psychological and medical conditions, and diagnosing the right cause of listlessness is essential in treating the patient.

Normal Feelings of Listlessness

Most commonly, people experience feelings of listlessness if they do not receive the proper amount of sleep. It is recommended that adults get 6 to 8 hours sleep a night, children should get 10 to 12 hours and toddlers, 14 to 16 hours. Not receiving the proper amount of sleep will leave the body robbed of the energy it needs to turn food nutrients into energy. Patients may also experience feelings of listlessness after a strenuous workout, as the body is working harder than normal and requires extra rest. If you are experiencing persistent feelings of listlessness without strenuous exercise and are receiving the adequate amount of sleep, you may be suffering from a more serious medical condition, including depression, Crohn's disease or an anxiety disorder.

Lifestyle Causes

Generally, people who experience listlessness may be do so because their body is not in a healthy state. If a person is drastically over- or underweight, his body may not be able to convert food into energy, resulting in muscle fatigue and exhaustion 1. In addition, an inadequate amount of physical activity will prohibit the circulation of blood to the muscles, resulting in fatigue and exhaustion 1. Finally, not receiving the proper nutrients from healthy food will result in a vitamin or mineral deficiency. These deficiencies rob the body of its ability to handle energy efficiently, resulting in listlessness and muscle fatigue.

Psychological Causes

Feelings of exhaustion may also indicate a psychological or emotional disorder 1. Depression often includes feelings of exhaustion and lethargy, and sometimes feelings of listlessness are the only symptom of depression 1. In addition, anxiety disorders cause the body to constantly be on alert, resulting in feelings of exhaustion 1. Finally, many prescription medications and substances---including illegal drugs and alcohol---cause the body to feel fatigued or result in increased drowsiness, so speak with a physician if you suspect your medication is resulting in persistent exhaustion 1.

Medical Causes

If a person suspects that her persistent listlessness is not a result of psychological or lifestyle conditions, it is possible the feelings are brought on by a more serious medical condition. Because listlessness may result from a wide variety of conditions, it is essential to speak with a physician and receive a proper diagnosis. Several conditions that may cause:

  • listlessness include acute meningitis
  • bacterial meningitis
  • acrodynia
  • dehydration
  • citrullinemia
  • hyperglycemia
  • kidney stones
  • Möller-Barlow disease
  • Reye's Syndrome
  • tuberculosis meningitis,
  • aluminum or selenium poisoning

In addition, infection and inflammation may cause feelings of exhaustion, as the body is working hard to fight off the infection 1. Additional testing, including blood tests, will help to determine the root of exhaustion 1.


While medical, psychological and emotional conditions resulting in exhaustion may not be prevented, certain lifestyle decisions may help reduce the amount or frequency of listlessness 1. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a normal body weight and ensuring the proper amount of sleep should help to reduce exhaustive states. In addition, daily supplements and vitamins will help to ensure the body is receiving the proper nutrients. Because exercise helps to circulate blood, strengthen muscles and bones, and boost the immune system, regular exercise is essential in combating exhaustion 1.