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Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue


November 19, 2014 | Published by

tired man on bus by Flickr user Zaytsev Artem

Everyone’s experience with adrenal fatigue is different, including how they got to that state in the first place. There are shared signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue, which many sufferers experience. Below are some of the more common symptoms; do these sound like you or people you know?

Continued fatigue not relieved by sleep or rest
Despite getting adequate sleep, do you still wake up feeling tired and groggy? Refreshed is often a foreign word for people experiencing adrenal fatigue.

Strong cravings for salt or salty foods
Do you feel like you just can’t get enough salt? Do you often crave salty foods and snacks, or add salt to already salty foods? (You can learn more about the association between salt and adrenal function in this blog.)

Overall lack of energy
For people with adrenal fatigue, most things feel like a chore–even simple tasks and things they used to enjoy. Everyday tasks seem to take ten times the effort than usual. For some, simply getting out of bed or off a chair is a major challenge.

Decreased sex drive
Sex is one of the last things on your mind when you barely have the energy to keep your head up. Stress itself can interfere with sex drive. Cognitive distraction (thinking or worrying about problems) interferes with sexual functioning. So if you are ruminating about multiple stressors, it will be difficult to put your full attention on either your partner or your own sensations and responses.

Decreased ability to handle stress
Do little things that never bothered you before now pose a problem? Road rage, constant anxiety and compulsive behaviors (like binge eating, smoking and heavy drinking) can be signs of a weakened stress response, and possibly adrenal fatigue.

Increase in time to recover from illness, injury or trauma
The cold you got in September seems to be hanging around for months; a simple cut on your finger takes weeks to heal; two years after the loss of a loved one you are still incapacitated by grief. High stress and/or adrenal fatigue can lead to a weakened immune system.

Decreased joy and happiness
You find it hard to see the joy, even in activities you love. Things that typically excite you now elicit a “meh” response. You almost never do something just for fun. It’s become harder to laugh and enjoy yourself, as well as the company of others.

Increase in PMS difficulties
An increase in bloating, fatigue, cramping, irritability and other not-so-savory effects of PMS can be experienced with adrenal fatigue.

Reliance on caffeine and sweets to keep going
Do you feel like you need caffeine just to get through the day? Do you find yourself going for sugary snacks to get that short-lived spike in energy? The downside to this, other than the empty calories and lack of proper nutrition, is the effect caffeine and sugar have on already weakened adrenals. Moreover, this reliance creates a vicious cycle; the crash after the short-lived spike leaves you even more tired and ‘needing’ more.

Weakened mental capacity
You frequently lose your train of thought and find it harder to maintain focus. Decisions, even the small ones, have become more difficult to make. Moreover, you find your memory failing you, and may experience a ‘mid fog’ that puts you in a mental haze. You may also find that tasks take longer than usual, and it’s harder to stay on track.

Image Credit: Flickr user Zaytsev Artem

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  • Gustavo says:


    I’ve just started using the Dr Wilson’s product pack for adrenal fatigue treatment. I have been reading that not everyone reacts well to the herbal adrenal support formula, and I am wondering how do I know if it is working for me or not? I do not have any allergies, and I believe I am sitting right now on a stage 3 AF. Please let me know how I can measure if this formula works or not for me. Many thanks!

    • Hi Gustavo,

      Some people react differently to herbs, mostly due to allergies or sensitivities. Licorice itself can be an issue for those with high blood pressure or high cortisol, which is why Dr. Wilson made a licorice-free alternative, Herbal HPA. Overall, the best way to know it’s working for you is to try it in a small amount. Try taking 5 drops in a small glass of water with no other supplements. If you don’t experience any adverse reactions, you should be good to go. Hope this helps–let us know if you have any further questions!

  • Elizabeth says:

    What is the best way to diagnose adrenal fatigue? I have been to countless doctors who have all done blood panel after blood panel to only keep telling me everything looks within range. No one has actually done an adrenal test to see if my adrenals are functioning. What do you suggest is the best way to figure out what is going on. The fatigue is unbearable, I have nystagmus in my eyes and the fatigue is so bad it causes the tremors to get worse. I have an consistent weight gain over the past 7 months despite the fact that I workout every day. I am at a loss on how best to figure out what is going on.
    Thank you

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Saliva cortisol tests are a good way to gauge adrenal hormone levels throughout the day. Blood cortisol tests measure one instance, and many practitioners are only looking to see if you’re in the range of Addison’s or Cushing’s. If you would like more information on saliva cortisol testing, we suggest looking at ZRT Lab’s website. Here’s a link:
      They also have a database of practitioners you can search, if you’d like help with testing and results. Hope this helps!

  • Jo anne says:

    Once we get the results…what do we do with them? I’ve had mine tested several times…all not good. I’m in AZ…I’ve paid “experts” a lot of money to help but I’m still fat, fatigued and frazzled.

    • Brandon Derrow says:

      Hi Jo Anne,

      You may be able to get an idea from the test results, but a practitioner versed in adrenal fatigue should be able to put together a recovery plan customized for you. Where in Arizona are you? We are in Tucson and work with practitioners statewide.

  • Babette Nixon says:

    Is it common for people with Adrenal Fatigue to get chills followed with mild shakes. I’ve noticed my legs start getting the chills then my legs begin to shake. It last 20-30 minutes. I bundle up with a blanket and space heater on medium. Thank you.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Babette,

      That symptom would not be common, but not unheard of either. The symptoms you described could be more in line with a thyroid issue. Have you had any thyroid testing done?

    • Courtney says:

      Adrenals are closely related to the thyroid, as well as estrogen/progesterone levels. I have noticed diet, probiotics and cutting out caffeine helps with this. Don’t forget a good vitamin B complex to support adrenal function and eat every 2 hours.

  • Sherri HelterbrAn says:

    Is it possible that internal tremors are a symptom of adrenal fatigue? Mine started following a month is sustained high stress and major life events. I have felt like my entire body/brain went “off” and won’t reset. Along with the tremors symptoms listed here, anxiety, cold all the time (I never get cold and am usually just the opposite), sleep issues.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Sherri,

      Internal tremors is not a symptom typically tied to adrenal fatigue. It can be a symptom of other more serious conditions, so we suggest checking with your healthcare practitioner as soon as possible to be sure.

    • Yolanda Beltran says:

      Did you ever find out what was the cause of your tremors and chills? That sounds exactly like me now and waiting for tests and proper diagnosis is nerve wracking. I can’t sleep and I’m so exhausted.

      • Deanne Oconnor says:

        I have exactly the same thing with severe lightheadedness ots got me so stressed out which isn’t helping 🙁 wonder if they found out what was wrong

      • Lindsay says:

        I’ve had many cortisol tests done in the past because my level was a 2-3 on the test. They said it wasn’t Addison’s disease. I have no fight or flight. It’s thrown way off. My BP goes from highs to lows so so quickly. I find my self in so much pain in abdomen and back. No sex drive…. for years now, and bursts of energy, then moments later unable to do really anything. Any idea what I should do and to what type of doctor I need to connect with? I’m in CA

  • Kathy Lewis says:

    Did anyone ever find out what was causing the internal tremors? I’ve been dealing with this also and it’s very bothersome. Mine seem to only happen when I’m trying to sleep.

    • Peggie Smith says:

      I started having internal tremors last December. They went away and now they are back. It used to be more so in bed but now it has become constant but it wakes me up at night. No explanation. So frustrating. I don’t know if I am weak but it makes me feel weak and low low energy. It’s really frustrating and has effected my mental outlook tremendously. I also have chronic tinnitus. I would think this is nerve related but nothing on MRI. Please if anyone has had this and has been helped let us know.

      • May says:

        Hi Peggie I have the same thing it started in March 2020 and carried on for best part of a year. Tremor and ringing in ear, bloating, acid reflux, weight gain, tingling, electricshock type twitching,
        hair loss, insomnia, breathing issues. I had MRI SCAN all was fine. I have had so many tests and have had to drive this investigation myself . It could be one of the following, a hormone imbalance, UTI. I had a UTI that went undetected because I didn’t have the typical signs nor did it show up in blood it wasnt until I pushed for them to do a urine test that they found it. By that stage it had affected me systemically with a lot of weird symptoms. I also had low iron but again this didn’t show up on bloods it looked like my iron was fine it wasn’t apparent until they measured my transferrin saturation which was low. Also get your thyroid checked for thyroid antibodies, you have to request this as its not part of the standard thyroid test panel. I tested positive meaning that I have hashimoto’s. Lastly do the saliva Cortisol test I did this and have been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. My Cortisol levels at night are 14 and they should be under 4 to he in optimal range.

        I have had acupuncture and Chinese herbs to help. I then worked with a good functional medicine doc who found the hashimoto’s, systemic inflammation and adrenal fatigue.

        I am taking 50mg DHEA and 50mg Pregnenolone and now I will start adaptogenic herbs adrenal support. I also take magnesium just before bed which is really helping

        I am 48yr old female I also have an appointment soon to discuss other hormonal support as some of my symptoms could well be related to perimenapause so I want to rule that out.

        Hope you get to the bottom of it

  • RB says:

    Having similar symptoms with chills, shakes and anxiety when trying to sleep. Brought on after a highly stressful event. Would love to read other people’s follow ups. Thyroid tests were fine, but I’m thinking the HPA axis is overwhelmed .

  • Sandra says:

    I am also having chills and internal shakes after severe stress. I would really like to know what is causing this.

  • Lisa Wichman says:

    I would also like to know about the shakes, it comes and goes. I lost my Mom to Parkinson’s with Lewey Body Dementia, it was pretty brutal to watch. She passed on 9/11/2020 so it’s new to us. I have some imbalances in my hormones and had some blood panels done today to check thyroid, electrolytes, iron, magnesium and so much more. I know my Morning cortisol is not in range, but I would like to test 4 times a day. Anyone have any ideas about the shakes/twitches?

  • Louise says:

    Hi everybody here 🙂

    I have had almost everything checked (bloods & the DUTCH Test done too = Google that), I’m in Australia but I did the DUTCH testing through America (I had to Fedex my results back to them). I have been testing low in dhea (anti-aging hormone) & cortisol (progesterone too) for years! Everything lines up and points to adrenal/chronic (I think they’re both the same) fatigue. I have almost EVERY symptom you can have related to it too. I have palpitations and visible head tremors almost 24/7. Dizziness even in my sleep.

    My advice is to read the Power Surge website, watch Dr Axe’s YouTube video on treating adrenal fatigue, and read EVERY article that Dr Lam (from California) and his daughter/son have written on the internet. Also join the Power Surge group on facebook.

    ANYthing is possible when it comes to adrenal fatigue/HPA Axis dysfunction – and these symptoms develop due to (prolonged) stress – and also appear during perimenopause.

    And YES, you definitely CAN get chills/overheating/palpitations/tremors with AF/CFS/HPA Axis Dysfunction. Dr Lam mentions and describes (in detail) what is happening and what causes it/them.

    The protocol is basically a good diet (read Dr Wilson’s book), salt, electrolytes, high dosing of vitamin C, adrenal glandular supplements, vitamins, adaptogenic herbs and antioxidants (and hormones and steroids if/when required), meditation & breathing exercises, sun, holidays, loads of sleep (go to bed before 10.30 PM at the latest), get rid of toxic relationships/jobs/connections etc and do NOT over-exercise or eat too low carbs.

    I have read almost every article there is about adrenal fatigue on the internet. I also discovered that you have to be EXTREMELY careful when it comes to things like high dosing with glutathione /antioxidants/adaptogenic herbs/maca – because having TOO much of those things will not end up giving you energy or heal you, they can/will actually backfire on you. Because too much antioxidants can induce a HPA axis dysfunction with concomitant increased levels of circulating glucocorticoids – so this food supplement can be shown to be a risk to human health. The last thing you want to happen is to treat a body that’s worn out from too high sustained cortisol levels for too long – and then make those levels go too high again/muck around with your hpa axis without knowing what you’re doing. What we want our body to do is to heal itself to the point where it’s producing the RIGHT amount of cortisol (etc) and the RIGHT times. It is a very delicate system.

    Read this for more information on the antioxidant issue:

    The problem with this disease/disorder is that there’s not enough doctors/naturopaths/integrative doctors etc worldwide with THOROUGH enough knowledge about all of those ^ things across the board – as well as proper testing and then the regulating of hormone levels with replacement (bioidentical – NOT ‘natural) hormones & the safe usage/treatment of supplements too. And not enough of those practitioners have enough experience in actually getting people well & keeping them well long-term 🙁

    This is such a tough area and it really does require somebody that really and truly knows what they’re doing. It really is the ’21st Century Stress Syndrome’, and not only are older people (mainly women – but now men too) getting it, but the saddest thing is now very YOUNG people are getting it too. It is so very sad to see & I do believe that they really need to start teaching about it in medical school. ALL doctors – including endocrinologists NEED to know/learn about this awful disorder/dysfunction & how horrible and crippling the symptoms are.

    Anyway, I wish you all good health – and I truly pray for a cure for this for us all.

    From a Crohn’s Disease sufferer (also think high steroid treatment damage with that as well),

    Louise ❤

    PS I wish I could give out my email address for people to talk to me about this – in fact, I wish we could all talk to each other about this (because there’s not enough help or support out there), but I’m too scared to share it on here just on case there’s untrustworthy people/scammers that misuse it. It’s such a pity that there’s always somebody out there that will ruin it for everybody else 🙁

    • May says:

      Louise thanks for sharing this it is really helpful. Yes its a shame about email would love to speak to you further about your experience

  • Kim says:

    These symptoms are experienced by those with ME/CFS, except for perhaps “decreased joy and happiness”, which can be a bi-product, not the cause, of the disease.

  • Colleen says:

    Chills are absolutely connected to Adrenal Exhaustion! I go to a Naturopathic Doctor! Medical Dr.s & bloodwork can’t seem to identify Adrenal Exhaustion. I have severe Asthma/Allergies & with long term use of ‘oral steroids’ and antibiotics I usually have to visit my Naturopath to get me back on track!

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