When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation
The lack of motivation that can be caused by depression and other mental illnesses can be debilitating. There are some things that are so important they must be done as soon as possible. But for those who battle depression, the lack of motivation can be an enemy that seems insurmountable at times (Depression Can Drain You of Your Will to Live). Here's what to do when depression causes a lack of motivation.
Lack of Motivation is Common in Depression
The United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has established a working definition of mental health recovery that defines recovery as: “a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.”
You may have noticed all the elements of SAMHSA’s definition of mental health recovery require you to do something. “But,” I protest, “I can’t even get out of bed.” Depression saps motivation so completely, the depressed person can often find herself in the midst of a pile of tasks left undone and plans left unrealized.
Don't Mistake Depression and Lack of Motivation for Laziness
This is often where the depressed person can be, mistakenly, thought of as lazy or apathetic. A depressed person’s lack of motivation is not the same as laziness. When someone is lazy, they don’t want to do work or do unpleasant tasks, even when they have the energy to do so. They may be motivated just fine, they simply don’t want to exert themselves in any way.
The person who is unmotivated due to depression usually wants to work and do other things, but feels as if they can’t. This is a key difference between laziness and depression.
Since we see that becoming motivated even in the depths of our depression, or other mental illness, is a huge part of the mental health recovery process, let’s look at three ways to overcome the depression-caused lack of motivation we might feel.
3 Ways to Beat Depression's Lack of Motivation
1. Identify the Essentials
When you’re depressed and lack motivation, you may need to adjust your ideas about what is essential and what isn’t. Doing the dishes is essential; polishing the faucet isn’t.
2. Break Up Large Tasks Into Smaller, Easier Ones
Okay, so the kitchen needs cleaning. There are dirty dishes everywhere. But it’s such a huge job when we’re depressed that we let it go and it becomes much worse. And this just serves to make our depression worse because we feel lazy and no good. So instead of telling ourselves, “I’ve got to get this whole kitchen cleaned up,” we should break it down and say, the first thing is to unload the dishwasher full of clean dishes. But this is even too much, so we tell ourselves, “okay, the only thing I have to do right now is unload the silverware." This is a job we can usually get ourselves to do because it’s short and easy and requires only a bit of our valuable energy. Once we're done with the silverware, we can leave the kitchen and collapse on the couch until the next time we go to the kitchen for something and break off another small chunk by unloading just the bottom portion of the dishwasher.
By doing things this way, it allows us to at least get started on our immediate tasks. Granted, it takes a bit longer using this method, but it’s better than not doing anything at all.
3. Be Positive about Even the Smallest Victories
In mental health recovery, any small step should be celebrated. Use these victories to encourage and remind yourself that you can indeed overcome one step at a time. You’ll be able to say, “I know I can do it because I’ve done it before.” When depression causes a lack of motivation, know that you can still beat it.
Ehrmantrout, M. (2015, March 18). When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 31 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2015/03/about-depression-caused-lack-of-motivation
Author: Mike Ehrmantrout
June, I hope you are doing better today. I am on this site because I am struggling with this terrible illness. Reading the comments from mean hearted people is very painful. I think perhaps they just don't feel compassion. Hang in there. I hope you can find even 1 thing today that is beautiful to you and helps to heal your heart. Your comment hit home to me because I feel much the way you do. After reading your words I felt I must respond so you know that I, a stranger, understand how valuable and significant you are. Feel pity for others that respond with cruelty. We should never allow them to make us feel small. I feel sorry for them.
Leanne Brown We are never alone with Depression. It is no different than a physical illness. I dread the winter months as I suffer from S.A.D. Seasonal Affective Disorder. I have meds to take for this condition but no longer seem to help. I may ask my MD to change to a different type of med.
Hey, Kev Man. I’m guessing you have someone in your life who deals with depression. Several years ago I was hospitalized for major depression. I’ve been dealing with it since then, against my will and my choice. I certainly didn’t wake up one day and decide that this disease would practically rule my life, and my family’s life. It had devastating affects on my family, and they were frustrated and angry at times. So much of what I was unable to do fell to them. They didn't understand chronic major depression, and how could they? They’d never experienced it. Their anger and frustration only added to my (guilt and) depression, which further exacerbated their anger and frustration. I asked my therapist what I could do to try and explain this illness to them. She answered, “It’s not your job to educate your family on this mental illness. My advice would be to tell your loved ones, ‘I can’t explain it to you, as I don’t fully understand it myself. If you love me, please educate yourself about it.’” I did tell them this, and thankfully they did educate themselves. In fact many of them even participated in my therapy sessions. They learned ways to help me, and ways not to enable me. I can certainly understand your frustration! Major depression, and all mental illness, affects the entire family. I hope you get some help for yourself. The more you understand, the more you’ll learn that there are ways to protect yourself and be more at peace. Best of luck to you.
Be careful with the words you choose in life and assumptions you make. Your life could change and you may actually lose someone, be abused or suffer ptsd . These things lead to depression. Maybe you had good parents and a perfect life. No matter ones illness we are all equal. You shouldn't be so prideful because like I said things can change for you in a heartbeat.
I have had depression for 15 years, I am now 38 and I have never missed a day of work. I have fought and will continue to do so. You are so incredibly ignorant.
Rachel, I have been depressed most of my life. Then lost my husband 11 years ago. Had to keep the house and take care of the kids. Now the kids are grown and I am 57 years old. For the last year I have been late for work every day. I just can't get out of bed on time. How did you do it? What can I do? This just exacerbates my feelings of uselessness.
Hey not lazy s? I've been able to define "calm"... I say that, for me it's hard to quit smoking cigarettes. We're all different too, I could say that I'd like to find a way to get well rested and gain natural energy in order to be and stay completely and consistently motivated... I don't want to be wired out? I just need to understand why I'm schizophrenic?
Regardless that this is an old post, I wanted to comment my thoughts on this immature reply you so crudely felt the need to share.
Honestly, I feel sorry for you here because you must be a very angry person inside....maybe you didn’t get the proper love and attention you needed as an adolescent and prob lacked the proper education in the social world , which then framed your mind with only one track with the inability to understand kindness human decency. If you get off on seeking out and crudely bashing people who are only looking for support from others that are sharing similar life battles and whatnot,(note, none of which you clearly relate) then unfortunately, you are below average not only on a mental level, but a character level too. Maybe try smiling once in a while. Life is not that ugly man. ;)
Well put Kev Man, you wouldn't be a Doc would you? Just finished reading Adam Kay's excellent book about Jnr. Drs. underpaid, underappreciated, bullied by nursing staff who can be a pain in the butt. Worked with them in London so full of themselves 75% of them! Yep I get depression and I'm on this page to find out if I'm being a lazy toad or just plain tired of fighting battles. The latest being a 77 year old philandering husband of 25 years who hadn't the presence of mind to use a condom when playing away from home! Jeeze some men just never grow up and face responsibility! Listening to Mozart and am about to go lay the fire and find another good book to read and yep I don't do my housework as diligently as I used to do so what? There's only me and the dogs and there are days I could strangle old Max. Almost every morning I have to clean up a hard mass of turds scattered across the floor. The poor old boy is incontinent & I keep hoping he'll drop dead naturally rather than have him put down. Sorry about spelling errors in earlier comments people.
Hello Kev Man,
Glad to see you work hard but if u ever get stuck with the serious illness of depression you will understand what it entails. You speak in ignorance about depression. Telling a person who has clinical depression to work hard every day is like telling a person that is blind to open their eyes and drive down a busy highway. You have no idea what you are talking about or what your "brain" is thinking. No one knows an illness until they experience it firsthand. Hopefully, you never eat your cruel words.
What is wrong with you? Depression isn't laziness, it's not being motivated because you don't see the point in life. I don't want people to feel sorry for me, and trust me you DO NOT want depression, it's horrible. Depression isn't laziness, it's lack of hope that you'll ever be happy, its thinking that no one likes you, it's feeling that you are not worth anything, depression is when you don't care about yourself or life anymore, not because you're too lazy to, but because we just can't see the point - it's how the depressed mind works. Would you tell someone with Alzheimer's to just 'snap out of it'? It's like telling a deaf person to listen harder, or a blind person to look harder.
I hate to say this, but I think you have may have already gotten your wish, Kev.
We feel bad enough as it is. It's like you are saying to me, "Hey loser! Why aren't you seven feet tall. Just be seven feet tall." Understand, we don't have that thing, whatever it is, that you have that lets you 'pick up the slack'. (By the way, you haven't had to pick up any of MY slack. I've always supported myself.) We wish we had that thing, but it just isn't there; like an amputees missing limb. I wish you could step into my reality for a few days. My IQ has been measured at 132, 137,142, & 148. I have seven years of post-secondary education. I could have been anything, but instead I've had about 80 jobs (well, maybe really only 35 or 40) over my 70 years. We struggle just to meet with the bare necessities. It sometimes feels like the world standing on us. So, please excuse us for any inconvenience this has caused you.
It’s sad to see how little empathy you have for others. I found myself suffering from depression when and a seven-year-old child died in my swimming pool. I found myself suffering from depression when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Recently I found myself suffering from depression when my husband was diagnosed with bladder cancer and we have three small children that need their father. Some people suffer from depression from pro longed sadness of their childhood it just sticks to you and becomes part of the Fiber of who you are. For me I know I can explain my depression as feeling sadness for so long that I forgot what happiness ever felt like. And even in events or times where everything seems OK and I feel stupid for feeling tired and down I can’t help it I have felt this sadness for so long happiness is hard to attain. Depression is real and trust me no one wants to feel like crap for most of their life. It becomes an illness unfortunately. I do try to snap myself out of it and keep busy and remind myself that life is good, It takes a lot of honest effort. Kev, before you judge someone You should try stepping in their shoes and maybe you could help someone instead of hurting them. Imagine if I just told you Someone you love dearly will die today imagine caring that sadness always regardless of how great your life may seem, that’s the depression many people feel on a daily basis.
Oh, KEV MAN. Just one more thing. Imagine what life would feel like if you never, ever could feel happy about anything.
Be honest Eric most depression goes back so far we don't realize it. One male friend suffers from personality disorder and that which triggered it was selfish parents around the '50's (who like many were probably suffering from PTSD from WWII). A gifted boy with an enquiring mind who made it high status. The downpoint which made the whole thing escalate was his best mate ran off with his wife and two boys - this was nearly 20 years ago he still has bouts of laziness, lack of motivation and severe depression. Kev Man isn't cruel just realistic. Mate is about have an exhibition of his work this time next year he could be on the brink again so we rally round and support that's what friends should do even if it's only by email. Do your best to keep well Eric.
You don't get it. Most people with Depression do get up and do what thy have to do everyday. They just have no desire to or things fall apart in private. I would love to have a mentally healthy brain and sit up on my pedestal and judge people. You have no idea what it's like to get up everyday and feel nothing. no joy, no accomplishment, not even sadness. Just to go through the motions each and everyday because it's the only way to survive, and you're not even sure you want to do that. Go away and take your negativity elsewhere. We're just trying to live our lives the best we can.
I have the same sense of life as yourself. Today is Saturday here. I started the day at 10 am! Breakfast, then tidied the house, did the washing and the usual Weekend tasks. But inwardly just sensing, there must be more to life than this.,
Local time here 4.11 in the afternoon, soon I will go out and get my washing off the line, just where has the day gone?
My Doctor simply said remain on your current prescription, it all appears to be going well for you.
But inwardly, I feel that I should be doing more, but just cant get the energy to do anything.
If I do find a sudden urge to complete a task, I start it, if all goes well, I feel ok. But should things not go good, I simply give up, and return to my dismal self and fall further into the depths of depression!
I hope I have not interrupted you, but just wanted to tell you the you are not the only person in the world in this situation!
Thanks, at least I now know that I am not the only "pleb" on the world! suffering this situation.
Keep smiling and may God Bless you.
Kev, considering this very article says to not mistake depression for laziness, and you've done exactly that.
Wow. Please don't wish to feel the way I do. You have no idea if you've never experienced it. There are days that I hide in bed, away from the world. I have hurt myself physically. I have thought about suicide many, many times but I couldn't do that to my family. Most of my adult life I've felt like I fell into a black hole and I'm trying to climb out. Sometimes I get so close to the top and start to get out, but every time something knocks me right down to the bottom of the hole again. It is an illness, it is a crippling, devastating, life altering illness. And I would give anything to not have it. Please don't ever wish for something that will hurt you so much.
Kev: Actually, there is a lot of suffering in mental illness. While there seem to be some nice, enviable things about the attention any sick person might receive sometimes---like warm chicken soup in bed when you have a bad cold---these little perks don't at all make up for the emotional pain and anxiety of mental illness. It's made all the worse because most people don't understand the concept of mental illness, only physical illness.
Grief of losing my husband turned into depression. Before that I could work 24 hours a day. Now it is a thought of getting out of my bed, washing and keeping the house clean. I loved to feel motivated. I go not choose to be like this.
Dear Kev man, one day your wish will be granted, maybe sooner than you imagine.
Dear Kev man,
I haven't seen any of your earlier comments but read some of the bloggers reactions to them. After reading this particular comment, I sense you have resentment towards people with mental and emotional difficulties which perhaps hints at your personal past hurts that you may have endured, or emotional frustrations you are currently dealing with. In the first place, the website HealthyPlace.com is a consumer mental health site, providing information on mental health disorders and psychiatric medications from both a consumer and expert point of view. Kev man, so what triggers you to spend the time navigating through such a website?
In the second instance, I have noticed in individuals that early symptoms of depression are very, very, very subtle. Therefore sometimes, the symptoms of depression are hidden and not seen in an individual's outward behaviour but is revealed within their sarcastic, cynical or derogatory comments about people who seem weaker or different.
The ability to get up and go about one's day does not seem like a privilege when you are able to carry out your responsibilities. Kev man, it's great that you can. But when symptoms from depression are triggered, it creeps into the psyche and can take up residence there like a squatter! To someone dealing with problems that affect the mind and emotions, the ability to get up and go is a privilege because doing simple tasks can become very overwhelming.
As I have matured I realize that a conflicted mind will find ways to point out the 'faults' of others in order to distract from real anguish and frustrations occuring within their own mind. Often people will hide the intensity of their moods or feelings choosing instead to deny them, plod along and get on with life, regardless of the red flags.
And kev man, it is those individuals who deny the early warning signs of depression, choosing instead to be tough and act resillient on the outside, yet on the inside (emotionally/mentally) something is happening.
Coming to terms with and accepting yourself (warts and all) is a good place as you explore your needs on the inside as well as the outside. Positive websites can also provide a supportive environment that allows the anonymity to explore different themes and offer support and useful links for individuals to notice the signs and triggers of mental health difficulties as well as strategies to help cope with highly emotional episodes or phases. Bloggers on this site share their experiences which can be comforting to others who are dealing with similar issues.
To sum up, expressing intolerance of, as well as negative comments about people who are dealing with depression on a website such as this hints to me that you are in conflict. Moreover Kev man, your replies about people with depression are in my opinion an indirect and 'silent' cry for help. Best wishes to you on your journey
So, Kev. You think you're better than others? Nah, you ain't. I have had depression and PTSD since I was 12. I'm used to the negative comments. You may have gotten a rise of out of these other people, but not me. I believe you suffer from a mental illness, although, I'm not sure which one. It seems like you want to take your insecurities, and how you feel about yourself out on other people to make yourself feel better. Who knows though? They say though,"Treat other how you would like to be treated." Maybe you feel like this validates who you are. Anyone who reads this mans comments, don't let it get you down. Depression sucks. I am dealing with it now really bad. I have no motivation, always feel like crying lately.
You should give serious consideration to the fact that you took the time to:
1) search for this information.
2) sign up for an account.
3) write a comment that you knew could cause serious, and potentially life threatening, problems for the people reading it.
That is a pretty extreme effort to go to.
I am new to this site and suffer from depression, add, fatigue. kev man does not understand. Don't let his doesn't even require a s response. Love and peace to all
I've suffered from depression for many years. I stay home most of the time. There's no problem cleaning my living space or taking care of my 2 cats. My problem is hygiene. I'll be going along fine for a few weeks, being really clean and polished, and then suddenly I say, "Oh, what's the use. This is so boring." Then, I won't shower or brush my teeth for a week. Then, slowly the ability comes back. This is so annoying. I hate being this way, but can't seem to overcome it.
I have been feeling major depression for 2 years. I still find it hard to function and I can't work. I want to know if recovery is possible
I honestly don't think it is. But that could be my depression talking. Every time I think I'm getting better (and I'm over the moon ecstatic about it), I relapse. I have no hope for the future.
Michele and Devorah, there is always hope - if you choose it. Reach out for support and be compassionate toward yourself. Depression is very hard to deal with (I'm in the process of recovery right now) but it does not have to be a life sentence. I have no idea of your particular circumstances so all I can say is that you need to hold on to hope and then take small baby steps toward healing.
I suffer from depression. I got married 6 days ago. The month before things started going down. 1st my nephew was hospitalize and we almost lost him. 2nd everyone didn't want to pay. 3rd 6 hours before the wedding the elder had to cancel due to death, and my cousin whom I looked up too, call and said that she prayed and holy spirit allow her to come, note this; she was in charge of the wedding reception. My wedding reception was a complete fail bc she had everything...my cake everything. I was so down, my honeymoon I spent so much time crying. My husband understood and comfort me a lot. I didn't get any pressure from him. I feel so bad as of now.
I think it's great that you have a caring supportive husband. Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world. I wish you had a better experience on the day that is important. Have you ever considered renewing your vows? Maybe that would be helpful to create a new memory to replace the old one.You could have as many or as few people as you want. Maybe you can just have people who support you and love you attend. Maybe you and your husband could go somewhere to make a fond memory. I hope everything works out for you. You have to understand that there are people who love and support you. I hope you feel better.
I have been dealing with this, and the accompanying guilt for the last 3 years; switching medications, joining a yoga class and participating in NAMI (Nat'l Alliance for Mental Illness) helps so very much. Please consider any of these! NAMI is free of charge, operates everywhere in the US and was the first thing I reached out to when I didn't have health insurance, severely depressed and very low on income. THEY WERE ANGELS. Just google NAMI. Please consider it!
The above really makes sense. Actually today I have spent 3 hours renewing old plants for new home grown ones. I have just started taking propranalol and wonder if they gave me the much needed motivation I didn't have before? Thank you for this site. Cheers, Carol
Renita, I do the same thing. But I MAKE myself invite someone critical (like my mother), over. It makes me at least get it presentable and pushes me, where I wouldn't on my own.
Beth, during depressive episodes, I tend to over spend and use retail therapy as temporary comfort. I get paid every two weeks. Every pay is different, but I know the baseline amount. I give every dollar a place to go. All my bills are written down and assigned before their due date to the paycheck closest to it. For example, I got paid 10th & 24th of april. April 10th paid all bills due 11th-25th and the 24th will pay all bills due 26th-may 2nd...etc etc. To start forcing myself to save, I have automatic deposit of an affordable amount to a credit union with the worst hours ever and no ATM card. It's a pain to go there, and so the money stays. I was procrastinating my bills to avoid feeling more depressed, but was getting behind and getting snowballed. So this worked for me. I have a dated chart with vertical payday columns and horizontal bill rows. I hope this helps.
I find that a good way for me to break up chores into small bits is do it while watching tv. When the commercials come on, I jump up and do something. You can do just about anything for 3-4 min at a time. I try to see how much I can accomplish during each break.
My apartment becomes one big giant mess when I'm depressed because all I want to do is sleep and even when I'm not particularly depressed I'd rather be doing something else than cleaning. But recently my apartment manager left me a note that said he needed access to my suite the following morning. I started to sob thinking how am I ever going to get this place cleaned up before tomorrow morning as it was already early evening. I was also struggling with a knee injury. I was afraid my manager would become upset with me if he saw my mess and I didn't want to get evicted or anything so after I composed myself I made a very large pot of coffee and went at it cleaning what I could before I became so overwhelmed that I had to stop then I set my alarm and rested for 15 minutes and repeated this process through out the night and well into the morning. Sometimes all I could do was clean a couple of dishes or vacuum a small patch floor before I had to rest. It certainly wasn't cleaned to perfection but at least when I was finished the following morning it looked more like the average persons manageable mess. I was barely able to focus the next day at work and as soon as I got home I went straight to bed
Congratulations, you did it. I feel overwhelmed when I have a big task to accomplish, breaking it down to smaller tasks works great for me. I feel better as I complete each task. Maybe you could make a list of the tasks you need to do, and put a check mark as you complete each one.
I agree with what you are saying but what if the lack of motivation is due to anhedonia brought on by antipsychotic medication?
Stop the meds?... Or take more to counteract it?
How irresponsible and ignorant to suggest to someone to stop taking their meds. This person obviously is lacking in knowledge about mental health issues and shouldn't even be on this forum.
Dealing with finances seems so overwhelming when
I'm depressed. I can't be the only one. What are
Some suggestions about maintaining my finances
My whole thought pattern revolves around
"I'll do it tomorrow...really I will." And then I don't.
Financial Difficulties and Depression
Treat your procrastinating thoughts ("I'll do it tomorrow") as mere suggestions and make it your mission to ignore them. If you want to work on your finances and then all these thoughts come to your mind about all the things you could be doing instead, actively fight them! Outthink these thoughts. It may be hard at first, but once you repeat this process over and over again (with other things in your life as well), then after a while doing all that work will start to feel extremely satisfying and even somewhat fun. You will interiorize that new inner-self and will hate nothing more than not working on your stuff RIGHT NOW instead of tomorrow. Good luck!