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Qual Health Res. 2010 Oct;20(10):1315-26. doi: 10.1177/1049732310370841. Epub 2010 May 4.

Tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion in the context of a major depressive disorder.

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Faculty of Nursing, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Framed in a multimethod design using ethnoscience and grounded theory, the purpose of this study was to characterize the attributes of tiredness, fatigue, and exhaustion, and to explore their influences on illness experiences in individuals with major depressive disorder. Two domains, mind (attributes: cognitive function, sleep quality, emotional reactivity, social interaction) and body (attributes: stamina and control over body processes), were identified. These attributes changed qualitatively with participants' progression from tiredness to fatigue and from fatigue to exhaustion, and determined whether participants "faced outward" to engage with others or "faced inward" to protect energy reserves--a decision largely influenced by the capacity "to hold up a mask" to conceal symptoms. The mask was energy depleting, and if participants could not hold up their mask, they withdrew to preserve energy. Findings regarding the role of the mask could contribute to the development of patient self-care strategies and caregiver interventions.

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