Burnout - Adrenal Fatigue - Adrenal Dysfunction - HPA Axis Dysfunction

What's the difference?

What do they mean?

What is the correct term?

Does it exist?



As an autoimmune specialist there's a reason I work so closely with dysfunctions of the adrenals. It's a link that not many people know about. Unfortunately it's more of a vicious cycle than a straightforward link.


You may have heard the colloquial term adrenal fatigue or burnout. You may have also heard of experts in it and of people dismissing it. Here's why...


Adrenal fatigue doesn't exist.


So if it doesn't exist why do I specialise in it??


Because adrenal fatigue is just a colloquial term that has become popular in the media. So quite rightly some people argue it isn't a real thing. It's not. It doesn't correctly explain what is happening when you have something wrong with your adrenals, because in 'adrenal fatigue' it is not actually about the adrenals becoming fatigued, that's not what happens.


However, adrenal dysfunction is still a thing, sort of...


Adrenal dysfunction better describes what is going on, but is still not ideal. As practitioners we prefer to say HPA axis dysfunction. Now this is a thing! And if you ever hear me say adrenal fatigue or burnout, which you will, basically because people know what I'm talking about when I use that term, I am talking about HPA axis dysfunction.


Confusing isn't it?


It gets more so yet. You see even HPA axis dysfunction isn't a disease. Another reason why some practitioners will argue it doesn't exist. Conventional medicine particularly, has a focus on disease. This isn't one, at least not generally, not in the way we talk about it.

However there is a disease of the adrenals called Addison's disease. This is when your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys do not produce enough hormones, because the adrenal gland is damaged, hence the disease state. Funnily enough this is usually (70%-90% of cases in the UK ) caused by the immune system attacking the adrenal gland, an autoimmune disease!

So we are not talking about a disease but an imbalance, but we know all too well that imbalances can lead to disease, including autoimmune disease and so this is why we much deal with adrenal fatigue or burnout.


So there you have it.

  • Adrenal fatigue doesn't exist.

  • But it does.

  • Adrenal fatigue doesn't mean your adrenals are fatigued.

  • Adrenal dysfunction, or HPA axis dysfunction is a thing.

  • But not a disease, so may still not be recognised.

  • There is actually a disease of the adrenals but that's not what we are talking about.

  • The dysfunction we are talking about can lead to chronic diseases including autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease can also cause the dysfunction.


Want to know how well your adrenals are functioning? Take my quiz...




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