Most people want to live. Whether they are in a moment of sadness or in a vital moment of maximum splendour and joy, almost everyone wants to enjoy the days that remain, which are expected to be as numerous and peaceful as possible.

However, some people find themselves in a situation where the desire to continue seems to have diminished or even disappeared . They say they are tired of living. But what does someone who says he is tired of living mean? Where does this tiredness come from?

Throughout this article we will try to give some answers to these questions.

Tired of living: what are we talking about?

It is possible to define the feeling of being tired of living as (or vital fatigue or tiredness) as the loss of physical, mental and emotional strength and energy required by the will to stay alive, which is not due to the effects of an illness and which is not the result of a certain experience.

Although the feeling of exhaustion and weariness and the loss of motivation is quite common after situations of great emotional pain, the vital tiredness goes beyond that: means the cessation or decrease of the desire to continue living, a situation in which thoughts of death often appear or the vision of that as something desirable. It is a tiredness and a fatigue that usually remains over time.

Although in some cases it may not be pathological per se (consideration of what life or death means may vary according to one’s culture and outlook), it is usually strongly associated with depressive symptoms.


In fact, life fatigue is linked to very common symptoms of depressive disorders and conditions, and usually hides behind some kind of depressive syndrome : the appearance of anhedonia or inability to feel pleasure or enjoyment of activities that previously pleased us and abulia or unwillingness to act are common elements of both life fatigue and depressive disorders, along with thoughts of death.

Likewise, one of the most relevant aspects associated with life fatigue is hopelessness, in which there is no expectation that the future will bring something better or directly we are not considered to have a significant role in it.

It is more common than feelings and thoughts of life fatigue in very old people , although occasionally cases are found in young individuals. These are often people who accumulate personal losses or who no longer have something that allows them to feel rooted in the world, or who suffer from a history of pain and suffering that they are not able to get rid of. Sometimes it is a very meditated feeling or sensation on the part of the one who expresses it, not being the product of a sudden emotional outburst.

The presence of tiredness or vital fatigue can lead to an active search for suicide, being a relevant risk factor. However, someone who claims to be tired of living does not always want to die. In fact, this situation could often be reversed if the person found a role, a function, or a reason that led him or her to connect with and actively participate in the world, or if he or she could change the pain he or she was suffering from (be it physical or mental).

Possible causes

As indicated above, typical symptoms of depressive syndromes and disorders can be found in most cases. One of the most common is major depression, in which sadness and anhedonia are together with hopelessness, passivity and thoughts of death and suicide (among other possible symptoms) generate a clinically significant discomfort to those who suffer or alter their functioning, for at least two weeks.

In addition to major depression, another disorder that may be deeply linked to the onset of this vital tiredness is dysthymia, also known as persistent depressive disorder. Continuity of symptoms (less severe than those of major depression but remaining almost daily for at least two years), can lead to persistent and prolonged life fatigue and boredom.

Even if they do not meet the diagnostic criteria for these or other depressive disorders, the symptoms may exist sub-syndromically. Most people who are tired of living present a deep sense of hopelessness and uprooting. Many of them feel detached from the world or consider that their role has already passed and do not find a reason to anchor them in life, to which is added despair and the non-visualization of the possibility that such a reason exists.

Some people have found themselves in such a situation because of traumatic experiences (as in the case of the young Dutch teenager who died in 2019 after having stopped eating and drinking, as a result of her desire to stop living after having suffered multiple sexual assaults since the age of eleven).

Others find themselves in a delicate vital moment in which they have lost capacities and have seen how everything or a great part of their environment (family of origin, couple, friends and sometimes even offspring) died, losing most of what made them feel part of this world.

Another of the most common causes of the emergence of vital fatigue is continued suffering, the presence of a terminal illness without expectation of recovery or the progressive loss of capacities . Examples of this are found in cancers and dementias, in which the expectation of a painful process without options for improvement or the loss of abilities and capacities caused by degeneration may lead those who find themselves in such a situation to reconsider whether they want to continue living.

What to do?

Life fatigue is a severe problem since it generates great suffering to those who suffer from it . Treating it can be very complex, and can be done from a multidisciplinary approach. In many cases the treatment can be that of major depression or dysthymia.

1. Psychological treatment

At the psychological level, aspects such as the person’s beliefs, the meaning of life and death, life expectations and vision of the future would have to be worked on.

If we are faced with dysfunctional elements, it is possible to employ techniques such as cognitive restructuring to modify cognitive biases and maladaptive beliefs that may be at the root of life fatigue. It is also helpful to help form short and long-term goals that are meaningful and relevant to the individual. In this way, it is necessary to work on the individual’s life project, as well as his values, desires and plans for the future.

It will also be possible to work on situations such as loneliness or the presence of illnesses when helping to analyse the personal situation and make decisions if necessary. On a pharmacological level, the administration of antidepressants can be helpful in order to reduce feelings of sadness and anhedonia.

2. Intervention in the social context

Another type of action has to do with the socio-cultural and political context, working on some of the socio-cultural problems that cause these to appear and that cause despair and that a large part of the people who are tired of living are tired: the lack of social visibility of populations such as the elderly, loneliness, the lack of a role or a role to play or the perpetuation of a liquid social model, with few references and values that are not very stable.

New policies are needed to make invisible parts of society visible , such as different minorities or members of the increasingly prevalent elderly. Educating in more stable values and generating references in the different moments of life can be very useful, as well as providing desirable roles and functions to be fulfilled at different ages.

Bibliographic references:

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