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“Am I lazy Or Depressed?”

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15 min

“Am I lazy Or Depressed?”

Imagine it’s Saturday morning, which promises to be productive. You wake up with a to-do list teeming with errands: groceries, dry cleaning pick-up, that long-overdue library book return, and maybe replacing that burned-out lightbulb.

But then, when it’s time to act, you find yourself with no desire to do anything, mindlessly scrolling reels on Instagram without wondering how you got there. Or maybe you could zone out, staring blankly at the wall, thinking, “I can’t get anything done today. Why am I so lazy all the time?”

Before judging yourself, hold on a second – you might be asking the wrong question entirely. 

Well, we all have those lazy days, right? But what if there’s more to it than just laziness? Because sometimes that lack of motivation might be a sign of something bigger, like depression.

While they both can rob your motivation, they’re different. Okay, then, how do you find out which one you have?

This article is here to help you figure out the difference between plain old laziness and depression. We’ll explore what might be causing it all and how to deal with it in a calm way. 

What is laziness?

We all know that feeling – the couch seems way more inviting than that mountain of dishes. Yeah, that’s laziness, and it’s real. Though we often use the word “lazy” for a person, it’s not an official term and can sometimes be even more complex than we think.

The MA and LAC Hannah Schlueter, comments Although it’s a normal experience for everyone from time to time, it may be helpful to remove the word “lazy” from your vocabulary and replace it with the word “unmotivated.” The term “lazy” doesn’t accurately portray the reasoning behind someone’s behavior (or lack thereof), but instead is often used as a shame tactic that is largely ineffective at building motivation and increasing productivity. Using a non-judgmental approach allows for an honest look at what barriers are present and why. This gives you more valuable information as your create a plan to tackle your challenges with motivation and eventually feel ready to face those tasks head on.

Many signs of laziness can contribute to a lack of motivation. Some can be:

  • Delaying things for better times
  • Avoiding responsibilities
  • Low energy
  • Poor time management

What’s the meaning of laziness? It can make you avoid stuff, put things off (like waiting to clean your room), or just not feel like doing what you should.

And guess what? Taking breaks is totally okay. Of course, sometimes we all just want to relax and avoid chores. Choosing more enjoyable activities over things requiring effort is much easier.

There’s even more to the story. Being lazy can actually be productive, too. For example, a successful CEO, Jack Welch, used “looking out of the window time” to relax and see things from a different angle. 

However, there can be a fine line. While essential for well-being, too much inactivity can be problematic. Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact our health and productivity.

On a similar note, a large portion of people (like 92% in the US) sometimes delay important decisions. 

Sometimes, what feels like laziness might be a symptom of something else, like depression, anxiety, or an executive function disorder. If you’re frequently putting things off, feeling tired, lacking self-worth, or easily distracted, exploring what’s going on beneath the surface is going to be more helpful.

Now, to better understand the difference between laziness and depression, let’s first explore what causes laziness. 

Why do I feel so lazy?

It’s perfectly normal to experience a lack of motivation or energy to get things done. And it can happen to anyone from time to time. But why are some people lazy, tired, and unmotivated while others aren’t? What makes a person lazy? Let’s explore the most common causes of laziness and understand why this happens.

Lack of motivation 

That can be a major cause of laziness. One thing that can definitely trip us up is procrastination. We would instead focus on something less urgent than work on important things. 

For someone lazy, procrastination works as a coping mechanism. When a task feels overwhelming, anxious, or too challenging, we might put it off to avoid those negative emotions. 

In the short term, this feels good, but it creates a snowball effect of unfinished tasks and makes it even harder to get started. It also reinforces avoidance of undesirable tasks and unpleasant emotions, typically creating more stress in the long run.

Mental exhaustion

Another sign of laziness is mental fatigue. Just like your muscles get sore after an extensive workout, your brain can get tired, too. 

It happens when you push yourself too hard mentally, like working long hours, doing many tasks at once, or focusing intensely for a long time. When your brain runs low on mental fuel, you might feel unmotivated and tired and just want to take a break or avoid things altogether.

Lack of energy

Do you ever feel like you can barely lift your arms, like brushing your hair, for example? Yeah, that’s physical exhaustion for you, another cause of laziness. 

There can be various reasons for that. Maybe you haven’t gotten enough sleep, or perhaps you’ve been pushing yourself too hard physically. 

Whatever the cause, physical exhaustion can make even the most basic tasks challenging. 

Distracting surroundings 

The world around you can seriously affect your focus and motivation, making you feel lazy. Imagine trying to work at a coffee shop with loud music, people talking, and tempting pastries within arm’s reach. This chaotic atmosphere makes it difficult to concentrate and stay on task. 

This might be similar to the experience of ADHD paralysis, where the environment can overwhelm the ability to focus and make decisions.

Another example is a workspace cluttered with bills and dirty dishes, which can overwhelm you and make you feel unmotivated to do anything. 

In contrast, a clean, well-organized desk with calming plants or inspiring artwork can subconsciously boost your focus and productivity.

Research also suggests that laziness might be contagious. It can rub off on you if you’re surrounded by colleagues who constantly procrastinate or take long breaks.

Unhealthy choices 

Last but not least. Do you often feel low in energy or moody? That can also be related to what you consume, as there is a link between unhealthy diets and feeling lazy and unmotivated. 

Processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats like those found in burgers and fries can contribute to mood fluctuations and low energy, negatively impacting mental well-being. 

The same about alcohol. While drinking may seem tempting, it usually makes depression worse in the long run.

Causes of laziness

Depression as a lack of motivation

Good, we talked a bit about “Why do I feel unmotivated” in general. But what if that feeling sticks around for a while? Can it be a sign of depression?

Many of us experience sadness or low moods due to life’s challenges. However, depression is much more than just feeling down. It’s an ongoing condition affecting our thoughts, feelings, and behavior.

It’s important to know that sadness and depression aren’t the same. Feeling sad is a normal reaction to something challenging, but depression is a diagnosis in DSM-5 and stays around for at least two weeks accompanied by other symptoms, too.

Signs that someone might be experiencing depression

  • Fluctuations in mood that last a long time. Does your mood change quickly? Are you overstimulated? These could be signs of depression or other mental health disorders. It’s normal to feel happy about a promotion or sad about a fight with a friend. But if those mood changes become extreme and last for weeks, it’s time to talk to a professional. 
  • Not interested in it anymore. Sometimes, things just don’t spark the same joy they used to. Perhaps stargazing, once an activity that kept you up all night, now feels flat. Maybe that captivating historical fiction series goes untouched. A lack of interest can look like laziness, but it could also be a sign of depression.

There’s a word for that: anhedonia. However, while it’s okay to take a break from things you used to enjoy, persistent anhedonia can be a sign of depression.

  • Sleeping excessively or not sleeping at all. Depression and sleep problems are closely linked. You might have trouble falling asleep at night or sleeping more than usual. A lack of sleep makes it harder to deal with things and vice versa. 

Also, daydreaming can be an excellent way to escape negativity temporarily, but sometimes, we can get a little too lost in our thoughts. And it ends up affecting our daily routines or time with loved ones.

  • Need extra power to wake up. No motivation to get out of bed for months – another possible sign of depression. Some people find it incredibly difficult, even knowing they have things to do. This lack of motivation can make getting ready for work or school feel impossible. The cozy bed becomes the most attractive option despite the to-do list calling.
  • Morning fatigue. That also can be a sign of why you have depression. Feeling like you have no energy, even after sleeping a lot. This fatigue is different from tiredness because it doesn’t improve with rest. Even after sleeping in on the weekend, you might still feel unmotivated to do anything.
  • Hard to focus. When you have depression, it’s hard to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time. This can be frustrating and interfere with your daily life. You might struggle to follow conversations, make careless mistakes at work, or have difficulty reading a book for enjoyment.

Did you know that depression is actually pretty common? In the US, around 8% of adults live with it, and over 16% experience it at some point in their lives.

Causes of depression

There’s still much to learn about depression, but one thing is clear: it isn’t caused by a single aspect. So, why do we feel depressed? What are the contributing factors? Let’s take a look:

  • Brain chemistry: Researchers are still learning about how our brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine, might be involved in depression. It’s complex, and there’s likely more to the story.
  • Family history: Having a close relative with depression can increase your risk, but it’s not a guaranteed thing. Genetics may play a role, but so do many other factors.
  • Life challenges: Difficult experiences can be real downers. Losing a loved one, experiencing forms of violence like emotional, physical, or financial abuse, going through experiences like abandonment trauma, or feeling alone. You may ask, “why do I feel so lost?” All this can all trigger depression in some people and make them feel unmotivated to do anything. 

But you don’t have to stay stuck. There is always a way to break free from childhood trauma and negative emotions to build a brighter future.

  • Physical health: Sometimes chronic pain or illnesses like diabetes can make depression more likely. It’s a two-way street where one can affect the other.
  • Medications and substances: Certain medications and using substances like alcohol or drugs can also be risk factors for depression. Talking to your doctor about any medications you’re taking is important.

It’s important to remember that depression’s causes vary, and it affects everyone differently.

Depression vs. laziness

Cool, now we are full of knowledge and can move on to the main question here! However, it’s easy to confuse being lazy with being depressed.

Sometimes, what feels like laziness might be a symptom of something else, like depression or anxiety. If you’re frequently putting things off, feeling tired, lacking self-worth, or easily distracted, exploring what’s going on beneath the surface will give you a better approach to tackle it.

Both can make it hard to get things done, but they are not the same. So, what is the main difference between them?

Lazy” isn’t a term therapists use. It’s more of a way to describe someone who could probably do something but just doesn’t feel like it. 

Depression is different. Depression is an actual medical condition, and it can affect your mood, thinking, and daily life in ways that simply feeling lazy doesn’t. People with depression often struggle with low energy, making decisions, starting tasks, or even taking care of themselves.

It can bring on dark thoughts and feelings that feel overwhelming and scary, even if they come out of nowhere.

How to understand I am lazy or depressed?

So, how do you feel about it? Do you think it’s laziness or depression? Sometimes, saying you are lazy is easier than going deeper. But it’s not an option. 

Instead of jumping to the conclusion of “I am just lazy,” why not take a moment to check in with yourself? See how you’re feeling emotionally when you’re not feeling motivated. 

This might give you some clues about what’s going on. Just take a moment and think about it. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • Am I exhausted?
  • Is there something on my mind that’s making it hard to focus?
  • Do I skip a meal all of the time?
  • Am I dealing with any aches or pains?
  • Do I even understand what I need to do?
  • Maybe I feel stuck, scared, or overwhelmed by a task. Why might that be?

If you’re still unsure or something in your condition bothers you, it’s always best to seek professional help. A doctor or therapist can provide a diagnosis and recommend treatment options.

the girl is wondering if she is lazy or depressed

How do I get motivated if I’m feeling lazy?

As was mentioned before, laziness is typical. But if you’re feeling stuck, here are a few ideas that might give you an idea of how to stop being lazy and get moving again. 

  • Start small: Don’t try to rebuild your entire life at once. Pick one thing you’d like to accomplish and break it into smaller, more manageable tasks. It could be just dusting one room in the house or doing 10 minutes of exercise. It’s that simple! 
  • Determine what you want: Vague goals like “learn a new language” can be easily put off. Instead, set smaller, more specific, or time-oriented goals like “practice Spanish for 30 minutes each day for a month” or “enroll in an online course on playing the piano.” This will bring much better results and show you how it’s not to be lazy.
  • Make it enjoyable: We’re more likely to stick with things we enjoy. Can you find ways to make your tasks a bit more fun? Maybe listen to an audiobook while you exercise, or you can watch TV shows about cleaning, like “Clean House,” to feel more engaged while cleaning. You can always reward yourself with a small treat after completing a chore. This might help you overcome laziness more easily.
  • Minimize distractions: Multitasking is a recipe for feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on one thing at a time can make a big difference. Turn off notifications, use the blocker for unwanted websites, and schedule tech breaks to check your devices.
  • Be kind to yourself: Procrastination can sometimes be linked to negative emotions. If you are delaying things or feeling unmotivated to do anything, take a moment to breathe and be gentle with yourself. Maybe a short walk or mindfulness can help you feel calmer and more focused.

Remember, these are just suggestions; what works for one person might not work for another. Be kind to yourself as you experiment and find what helps you be most productive.

Steps to take if you feel down

If you’ve been experiencing intense feelings of sadness and loss of interest for more than two weeks, you should talk to your doctor or a mental health provider as soon as possible. There are effective treatments available for depression, including cognitive behavioral therapy and medication, that will help you to heal. 

But sometimes, we all have a bad mood out of nowhere. For such purposes, I have some tricks to help you improve your quality of life and get better. Let’s check them out!

Get your body moving 

Exercise can significantly help manage sadness. Studies have shown that exercise can make a significant difference for people experiencing depression and improve their mood.

Where to start? Just getting active for 20 minutes or so each day is a great beginning. Walking is always an option, but you could enjoy dancing, jogging, or biking more.

It’s okay if you don’t feel like it right now. Sadness can make you feel unmotivated to do anything and constantly tired. Maybe ask a friend to join you, or tell them about your goal to stay on track. Listening to audiobooks or podcasts can also make the time pass easier.

Even a little movement or yoga with breathing exercises and meditation can be calming after a long day.

Focus on positivity

Bad mood often involves negative thinking patterns. Challenging negativity and focusing on positivity can help break the cycle. Such things as gratitude journaling and focusing on positive aspects of life can boost your mood. 

Along with that, think about what you’re good at. Even small things count! Do you have a knack for fixing anything? Or maybe you’re a patient listener? Write them down.

Put up some positive vibes. Sticky notes on the mirror with things you like about yourself or saved screenshots of texts from someone who cares – whatever works for you!

It’s not about faking happiness but recognizing your worth and chipping at negativity. This is a process, but one that can lead to a more positive and fulfilling life.

Healthy food

I know feeling down might affect your appetite. Sometimes, you might not want to eat or are too lazy to cook. At other times, you may wish to have comfort food. If that’s happening to you, try to eat healthy foods, which is essential. That can be tough, but eating well can help you feel better and have more energy.

Let’s focus on giving your body some good stuff. Fruits, vegetables, and regular meals are a great place to start. Even if you don’t feel super hungry, a piece of fruit or something small can help you keep going. Try to implement them in your daily meals step by step.

Rewarding system

Maybe you’ve noticed that sadness can make even basic things feel impossible because you have no desire to do anything. It’s like your brain hits the brakes on anything requiring little effort.

This can stop us from doing really helpful things, like connecting with loved ones. But hey, who says progress has to be giant leaps?

Setting tiny, realistic goals can be a good starting point, like playing one song on your instrument or reading a single travel blog post.

Bonus points if your tiny goal involves something you enjoy, like chatting with a friend. You might get that accomplishment feeling like you are achieving things, plus a dose of pleasure and connection.

Eventually, it can be sophisticated to tell the difference between laziness and depression. But sometimes, the answer is just getting a better understanding. If you’re stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out – talk to someone you trust or a professional. Taking that first step can make a big difference!

Hannah Schlueter, MA, LAC photo

Reviewed by Hannah Schlueter, MA, LAC

Hannah is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She sees kids, teens, and adults...