Lately, you’ve noticed feeling unmotivated and doing the bare minimum just to stay afloat. Now you’re wondering, “am I depressed or lazy?” But these concepts aren’t the same. Laziness is having the ability to perform an activity but opting not to, while depression isn’t an intentional act, but a psychological condition requiring more than self-determination to resolve.
The Key Differences Between Laziness & Depression
People often confuse depression with laziness, yet these are two distinct constructs. Laziness can be mostly defined as being in a state of inactivity as a result of an individual’s unwillingness to perform a task despite having the capacity to do so. Laziness can occur periodically and is believed to be more of a mental state, deliberate act or personal choice. Some experts theorize that laziness is a personality trait or character deficit, while others believe laziness is a behavioral sign of an underlying concern. Regardless, laziness often carries a derogatory connotation.1
Depression also bears some stigma and is falsely viewed as a problem related to a person’s will. Depressed individuals may appear lazy due to underlying symptoms of depression such as lack of motivation and energy. However, depression is a psychiatric disorder accompanied with many other pervasive features like deep sadness, inability to feel pleasure, a desire to isolate, apathy and more.
Depression is not a personal option or a transient emotional response. Instead, it is a debilitating condition that can intensify and harm your overall wellbeing and daily functioning. Moreover, depression commonly requires professional intervention and not just will power. 2, 3
Am I Lazy or Depressed?
Depression and struggles with laziness both impact your energy levels, motivation and productivity. Thus, it may be tricky trying to decipher what you are experiencing. If you feel like something is off, take a step back and self-reflect. First, determine your baseline; in other words what is normal or typical functioning for you. Only you know your own capabilities and how you feel, think, and act when you are in that sweet spot.
Here are some questions to consider to determine whether you’re lazy or depressed:
- Can I accomplish the task/s at hand with will power and determination?
- Am I having trouble getting any task/activity started?
- Am I avoiding certain tasks because they seem too complicated?
- Am I more physically exhausted than usual?
- Am I feeling overwhelmed by having too much going at once?
- Have I lost interest in not just doing certain tasks, but also in things I enjoy?
- Am I finding it harder than usual to jump back into my responsibilities and/or getting back on track?
- Have I ever felt uninspired/under stimulated or like this in the past? If so, how did I cope?
Keep in mind that we all have experienced periods when we’ve felt less energetic and lazy. Daily demands, life stressors and ongoing responsibilities can take a toll on our mind and body. As such, resting and having some downtime is not only normal but necessary. However, when moments of laziness are more frequent, lasting longer than usual and interfering with your daily functioning, there may be a cause for concern.
If You Think You May Have Depression, Take It Seriously
Life can bring challenging situations that can make us feel helpless, disappointed or defeated. Generally, these emotions are temporary – we resolve the issues and move on. However, depression is more than just feeling down or unmotivated for a few days.
Depression can bring a persistent sense of hopelessness, emptiness, demotivation and emotional indifference that is drastic enough to cause obvious deficiencies in your day-to-day life. Depression can also slowly creep up on you and worsen over time when it isn’t properly addressed. If any of this resonates with you, take it seriously and seek professional help. 2, 3
Symptoms of Depression
Symptoms of depression can vary from person to person. For this reason, having a good understanding of this mood disorder can give you a better idea of what to look for.
Here are common signs and symptoms of depression:2, 3
- Ongoing sadness, helplessness, worthlessness, and/or feelings of emptiness
- Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
- Fluctuations in appetite resulting in weight gain/loss
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Lack of energy or feeling fatigued
- Blunted affect and feelings of indifference
- Moving or speaking slower than usual
- Restlessness (as observed by others)
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts about dying or suicidal ideations
- Body aches, headaches, or digestive issues
Treatments for Depression
Treatment for depression usually consists of psychotherapy, medication or a combination of both. Talk therapy may be sufficient to effectively treat mild symptoms of depression. However, moderate to severe cases of depression may warrant both medication and psychotherapy right from the start of treatment.3
If you are ready to address your struggles with depression, you can start by searching our therapist directory and choose a mental health professional. It is important to find a mental health professional who fits your individual needs, is well-versed with mood disorders, and uses evidenced-based modalities. With the appropriate professional interventions and your commitment to the recovery process, you can effectively manage your symptoms of depression and improve the quality of your life.
Can Depression Make You Lazy?
Depression and laziness have, indeed, a bidirectional relationship. Fatigue, indifference, and lack of drive are typical symptoms of depression. The combination of these will likely make you feel and appear lazy. In turn, you may start avoiding productive pursuits, neglecting important responsibilities and not wanting to do much of anything. Over time this can become a maladaptive behavioral pattern submerging you deeper into your depression and perpetuating your lazy habits.
Coping With Depression & Laziness
You may feel so physically and mentally exhausted that doing the slightest task can feel too daunting. This absence of vitality will only deepen your depression and struggles with laziness making it harder and harder to cope with daily life. However, you can gradually break this cycle and supplement treatment by intentionally tweaking a few things in your life.
Below are some ideas for coping with laziness and depression:
- Maintain healthy habits – Eat balanced and nutritious meals, develop a bedtime routine,get adequate sleep, engage in regular physical activity, and keep up with your overall personal hygiene
- Focus on your physical health – Get your physical exam/health screening, have your eyes checked, and tend to your dental care.
- Develop an optimistic outlook – Shift your attention toward pleasant moments throughout the day, use daily positive affirmations to motivate you, and journal about the things you find inspiring.
- Lean on your supports – Connect with close friends and relatives, find a supportive community/religious organization, a support group with individuals who share the same struggles as you.
- Manage your stress properly – Engage in relaxation practices such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga to help manage stress.
- Ask for help – Keep yourself accountable and ask a close friend/relative to help you with your “to do list”, remind you of deadlines and do daily check-ins with you.
Finding the will to tend to your overall wellbeing may seem like a big production in itself. Making these adjustments may not be easy at first, especially if you have been depressed and unmotivated for a while. Think of these as the fuel or sustenance that is essential in order for you to emerge from your depression and lazy patterns. There will be times when you might feel frustrated and discouraged; be patient with yourself and focus on making one small change at a time.
Other Reasons Why You Might Be Struggling with Laziness
Understanding the possible reasons for your difficulties with laziness can detach some of the shame and stigma that is often associated with it. Laziness can very well be a symptom of something else. Closely examining where your struggles with laziness stem from can unmask the true cause and give you an opportunity to effectively address and resolve/treat it.
Below are some things to consider about why you might be feeling lazy:1, 2, 4, 5
- Individuals with ADHD can develop chronic avoidance behaviors like procrastination to activities/tasks they find boring, too difficult and/or frustrating to complete.
- Avolition, also known as a total lack of motivation, is a symptom seen in chronic depression, schizophrenia and other mental conditions. This symptom elicits a total lack of interest in initiating or completing tasks including simple ones/activities of daily living such as showering etc.
- Toxic stress can trigger a mental/physical decline causing sleep issues, anxious mood and a variety of health issues which lead to poor daily routines and general performance.
- Medical conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and others can cause significant decrease in personal, occupational, and/or social activities.
- Dissatisfaction and/or purposelessness on a task or with life in general
- Lifestyle deficiencies such as poor nutrition, sleep issues, lack of exercise, substance abuse and so forth
These are just some of the reasons among a wide variety of others. A good rule of thumb and place to start is to discuss your concerns with your primary doctor.
How to Get Motivated If You’re Feeling Lazy
Sometimes it is inevitable to feel like we are stuck in a rut, uninspired or simply bored with everyday life. This can happen to anyone and at any time. Even if it seems impossible, the truth is that there are things you can do to motivate yourself, even when you have no motivation to do anything.
Below are a few tips to get you out of a funk and motivated if you’re feeling lazy:
- Look online for inspirational blogs/articles/videos or listen to some Ted Talks, podcasts or uplifting music
- Purchase/rent self-help audio or motivational books
- Take a mindful walk and ponder on all the possibilities at your disposal or examine the things you’ve done in the past that helped you come out of a slump
- Call or visit someone you enjoy talking to and/or that will lift your spirits
- Do something for yourself like getting a massage, haircut, taking a bubble bath and so forth
- Find a hobby that you can realistically stick to
- Get moving – whether it is going to the gym, doing housework or brisk walking, exercise can benefit your mental health
- Organize your space or move your furniture around
- Keep track of your progress and reward yourself
There is no rhyme or reason as to which specific tools can get you back on track, as long as these are healthy, effective and align with your personality. The main point is to switch things around and break the monotony. Even the smallest change can help you get into a better mindset, improve your mood and reignite your motivation.
Whether you are struggling with depression, feeling unmotivated, or stuck in a rut, there are ways to help yourself. Reaching out to a trusted friend or relative, talking to a mental health professional, seeking moral support and fortifying your internal reserves can make a significant difference in how you overcome these challenges. And remember that the accumulation of tiny changes can add up to significant and meaningful results.
For Further Reading
- Best Podcasts on Depression
- Best Depression Books
- Best Depression Blogs
- Anxiety & Depression Association of America (ADDA)
- Center for Clinical Interventions– You’ll find a free downloadable workbook and worksheets to help you work through procrastination and avoidance
- Lifehack.org– Contains tips and inspirational content to overcome obstacles that may be holding you back