If you sought out this article, you’re probably sitting around, not doing much, but wishing you could be doing something– anything other than sitting around doing nothing. You might even be asking yourself, “Am I depressed or lazy?” If that sounds about right, you’re not alone. Wondering whether you’re just being lazy or if your inaction is something more serious is a great first step to take. In this blog post, we’ll cover the difference between laziness and depression, the symptoms of depression, and how to deal with it if you really are just feeling lazy.
The main differences between laziness and depression
Like I said above, you’re not alone if you’re confused about whether you’re feeling depressed or lazy. Many people often confuse depression with laziness, despite the two being completely different phenomena.
Laziness can be more or less defined as being in a state of inactivity due to your unwillingness to complete a task, despite being able to complete the activity. Laziness can occur from time to time in anyone and is often seen as a choice. Some experts see laziness as a character flaw or a deficit, while others believe it to be a sign of some underlying concern. “Lazy,” is usually seen as a derogatory word, despite being a personal choice.
Depression is also sometimes (incorrectly) seen as a choice. If you’re depressed, you may be seen as lazy because of certain symptoms of depression, like lack of motivation and lack of energy. That being said, depression is a psychiatric disorder that comes with many difficult to cope with symptoms like pervasive sadness, apathy, and a preference for isolation.
Depression is not a choice or an emotion like joy or sadness. It is a debilitating condition that can make you feel terrible and generally affects your well-being in a significantly negative way. Additionally, depression usually requires medical or professional intervention, rather than just willpower.
Am I depressed or lazy?
A person can struggle with both depression and laziness. Both can impact your ability to do things and feel motivated and productive. This may make it difficult to discern whether you’re feeling one or the other. If you’re starting to wonder which it is, it may be time to do some self-reflection. What is your personal baseline of action? In other words, without comparing yourself to others, what does your typical functioning look like? Are you meeting that level right now? If not, we need to dig deeper to find out why.
Here are some self-reflection questions you should be thinking about when considering whether you’re depressed or lazy:
- Can I normally accomplish tasks I don’t want to do using force of will?
- Is it just starting the task that’s a problem right now?
- Does the problem feel overwhelming to accomplish?
- Have I been doing a lot more than what is typical of me lately?
- Have I been comparing my abilities with those of others who may have more time or energy than me?
- Am I more physically or mentally tired than usual?
- Are there too many tasks to do and I can’t decide which to do first?
- Am I able to do things I normally enjoy?
- Have I felt like this in the past? What did I do to cope?
Remember that everyone has periods where they feel uninspired, less energetic, or just downright tired. You may be doing so much that you don’t even realize you’ve burned yourself out, or you may just be in a phase of low energy. If these moments of laziness are happening more frequently than normal, lasting longer than usual, or interfering with your daily functioning, then there may be some cause for concern.
Don’t discount depression
If you’re reading this article, you may already suspect you have depression. Depression can cause lots of symptoms people generally associate with laziness, but it can also be invisible. You may go about your day as normal, pushing through the depression to get everything on your to-do list done. You may have really important deadlines coming up, and pushing the depression back to get those tasks done can cause it to bubble up with much more gusto when the deadline has passed.
In other words, if your reasoning that it’s just laziness is that you can still accomplish daily and important tasks, your logic may be flawed. “High-functioning depression” is a thing, and it can be harder to suss out than your average run-of-the-mill depression. Signs to watch out for include:
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty concentrating
These symptoms can overlap with other conditions that look like laziness (such as ADHD– more on this later in the post,) so if you notice any of them, you should seek a professional opinion. A therapist, psychiatrist, or even your primary care doctor, can diagnose and treat depression in a myriad of ways.
Symptoms of Depression
Aside from the symptoms listed above, there are a number of others you should be looking out for when wondering if you’re depressed or lazy. They can vary from person to person as well, so understanding them thoroughly can give you a better idea of what to be on the lookout for:
- Feelings of emptiness or helplessness
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
- Feelings of indifference, or blunted emotions
- Moving and speaking slower than usual
- Others may observe restlessness
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of dying or suicidal ideations
If you are having thoughts of suicide, dial 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, or text START to 741-741 for the Crisis Text Line. (You can also chat online or through WhatsApp by visiting the website.)
Causes of Depression
Many things can cause depression, from brain chemistry to life events. Unfortunately, researchers don’t know the one exact thing that triggers it in the brain. However, if you notice symptoms, a professional can help. Some known causes of depression include:
- Brain chemistry: An imbalance of certain neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, can contribute to depression.
- Genetics: If you have a biological parent or sibling with depression, you are roughly three times more likely to develop it than the general population.
- Stressful life events: difficult experiences such as grief, trauma, divorce, prolonged isolation, and lack of support, can trigger depression.
- Medical conditions: Chronic pain and chronic conditions (such as diabetes, arthritis, POTS, etc.) can lead to depression.
- Medication: Some medications can cause depression as a side effect. Be sure to read all labels and understand side effects when taking new medications.
- Substance use: Substance use and abuse, including alcohol, can cause depression or make it worse.
Can depression make you lazy?
Depression can definitely have an effect on laziness, and vice versa. If you’re depressed, you likely experience a disinterest in things you would normally be interested in. This can make you appear (and feel) lazy. Depression may also cause you to retreat and isolate. This can result in avoiding responsibilities, hobbies, and tasks. Over time, this can become a behavior that sticks around and pervades your life.
On the flip side, if you’re simply ignoring or putting off tasks because you don’t want to do them, it’s possible you could develop depression over time. As responsibilities build up, they can become overwhelming. You may begin to freeze at the thought of getting everything done and begin isolating or feeling hopeless.
So, one definitely can cause the other. But what if you have both?
Depressed or Lazy: What if I have both?
If you’re wondering whether you’re depressed or lazy, you might be feeling both simultaneously. If this is the case, you likely feel so physically and emotionally exhausted that doing the smallest task can feel overwhelming. The loss of energy will only make your depression and struggles with laziness worse. This can make it even harder to cope with life on a daily basis. It is a constant, vicious cycle.
However, there is hope. These are some things you can do right now to cope with both depression and laziness:
- Look on the bright side: I know, easier said than done, but doing something like a gratitude journal, affirmations, or just slowly shifting your mindset can do wonders for your mental health.
- Focus on your physical health: Take care of your teeth, eyes, and body. Incorporate more exercise, and generally shift your attention from your mental health to your physical health. This will help you feel less overwhelmed because you have small, tangible goals that you know will make you feel better.
- Eat well: Research shows that your gut bacteria can influence your mental health, and getting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains feeds those good gut bacteria. They, in turn, will help your brain out a little more.
- Manage stress: Incorporate deep breathing and meditation into your life to help reduce stress and overwhelm.
- Seek help: Keep yourself accountable and ask a friend or close relative to help you with your to-do list, or see a medical professional if you feel you need treatment.
Finding it within yourself to engage in self-improvement can seem like a huge challenge in and of itself, but you would do well to ensure you’re taking good care of yourself in order to mitigate the effects of depression and laziness. These adjustments won’t be easy, but they will go a long way towards healing. Practice being patient with yourself and add things in slowly so as not to overwhelm yourself.
Other reasons you might be feeling lazy
If, after reading this article, you’re convinced that you really are just lazy, consider that there are a ton of reasons laziness can crop up. I personally believe that most people are not lazy for no reason, and that is likely true for you. Laziness is often a symptom of something else, and learning what that something else is for you can help you begin to treat and finally overcome your laziness. Some things to consider include:
- ADHD: If you have ADHD, you may engage in avoidance behaviors like procrastination in order to avoid tasks you find challenging, boring, or frustrating.
- Avolition: This is a symptom of chronic depression, schizophrenia, and other mental conditions, which means a total lack of motivation. This lack of motivation can include anything from vital work tasks to simple daily tasks like showering and brushing your teeth.
- Burnout: If you tend to not be lazy but you don’t suspect you have depression, consider that you might be burned out. This, like depression, can look like issues sleeping, being too mentally taxed to complete tasks, anxiety, and a variety of physical health symptoms or an increased tendency to fall ill.
- Medical conditions: Chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, general chronic pain, and other medical conditions can cause you to feel completely useless at times, even when you want to be doing chores or working. This can not only cause you to falsely believe that you’re lazy, but it can lead to depression as well.
- Lifestyle: Deficiencies such as poor nutrition, sleep issues, lack of exercise, and substance use can all contribute to laziness.
Remember to always discuss concerns with your primary doctor!
How to get motivated if you’re feeling lazy
Another reason you may be feeling lazy is that you’re bored, uninspired, or otherwise stuck in a rut. This is totally normal, and everyone experiences it from time to time. If this is where you’re at, there are things you can do to motivate yourself, even when you have no motivation to do anything. These tips include:
- Watch YouTube videos of people who are doing what you want to be doing. Even videos of people cleaning can inspire you to get up and do something, too. (This can be especially helpful if you have ADHD– look into body doubling!)
- Read self-help books
- Do something that lets your mind wander; a long bath or shower, a walk, or even just doing dishes can help your mind come up with new, creative ideas to solve problems.
- Plan a call or visit with someone you love to spend time with, whether that be a friend or a close family member.
- Practice self-care; a massage, haircut, facial, or even just a bubble bath can help you relax and get back into action faster.
- Learn a new hobby or skill such as crochet, painting, birdwatching, or woodworking.
- Incorporate more movement– it really is good for your mental health!
- Move your furniture around or reorganize your personal space.
- Come up with rewards to earn as you accomplish tasks.
Some of these tools may help more than others, depending on you and your personal life. As long as what you are doing is healthy, kind to yourself, and aligns with who you are, you are bound to see some results. Just be sure to do something that breaks the monotony of daily life in order to help you get into a better mindset.
If you’re struggling with depression or laziness (or both!), you’re not alone. Reach out to a trusted friend or relative, talk to your doctor, or seek support from a licensed therapist.
Wondering if you’re depressed or lazy can be challenging, but if you are seeking help, Modern Era Counseling can help. With our team of ten highly-trained mental health professionals, you’re sure to find someone who meets your needs. Get started today by giving us a call at (704) 800-4436 or click here to shoot us an email.