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When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation

When depression causes a lack of motivation, tasks seem insurmountable. You can beat it, though. Read what to do 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.” Lack of motivation is a well known symptom or sub-symptom of depression. This article discusses how to battle thisThis 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.

You can visit Mike on Google+, Instagram and Twitter.

63 thoughts on “When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation”

  1. I know i kinda late. I stop my depression treatment in midway and i dont take any meds.i just let the time flow. I keep this secret from my family so i am not sure if i am still in depression state. I noticed through out my days that i feel like i am not myself. Like i dont care anything at all, i become a really bad temper person. Sometimes i lost in thoughts and lack of motivation. Am i still depressed and do i need to do something?. .. I am really confused with myself

  2. I am very unmotivated to do anything. I never knew why until I started seeing a therapist recently.Then today I found this site. It has helped. I sent it to my husband who left me because of it. He felt like I was treating him like a servant. I never asked him to do those things.

  3. I was motivated but this town that I live in is filled with hate and negativity, even certain jobs are full of negativity ! I understand everyday won’t be good but the bad out weighs the good ! These people has religiously tried to bring me down, in the most petty ways possible! I feel like I’m in prison! The harder I tried. the more they tried to bring me down ! Awful and I have tried my best to do the right thing, yet they find ways to harass my life ! I think my motivation will come once I’m happier, because I’m not now ! Bitterness marks me !

    1. It’s harder for people with mental illness to be happy (I have BPD, anxiety, depression, ADD, and trichotillomania), and the truth is that jobs can be soul-sucking and unpleasant circumstances can make things much harder. Society, illness, and being human tend to keep us thinking that if we were in a different place, different job, or had x, y, or z, then we would be able to be happy and do better. However, my favorite quote is this one: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” I’ve learned that, somewhat paradoxically, it’s usually only when we accept the “bad” and find peace / happiness within ourselves that we become able to change our lives and what’s around us. I know that seems like nonesense, but trust me, I’ve been through some atrociously horrible stuff, and this is still what I have found to be true. Take care 🙏🏻🌹

  4. My lack of motivation is due to disability abd pain, which hasnt helped my depression. Infact i could say its made it worse so to be i honest id have to say yes it is possible lack of motivation can cause depression but saying that there may also be other undercurrent causes so this may need more research

      1. Is a vicious circle.. Just when I’m depress and eat, right after I ate an unhealthy snack I’m even more depress because I don’t have willpower..

    1. Necessary versus Sufficient Condition. This would only work if a lack of motivation is all that depression did. It would be like saying, Coughing is what gave you the cold. If you look hard enough you will find people with depression who are motivated, not always for good and productive things, but then not always for the opposite either.

    2. I find that depression causes the lack of motivation, but it can definitely become a “vicious cycle”, since a consistent lack of motivation can lead to things being undone consistently, and that (for me at least) leads to deeper depression.

  5. I just found this site, and think this is very informative and supportive, however I do have a major concern regarding posting of comments here. Given this site is clearly about coping strategies for dealing with mental illness, why would moderators of this site allow comments that appear not only ignorant but insulting, abusive and potentially very harmful to those with a mental illness, should they read them?? I would have thought it was the responsibility of the moderators to remove any ‘hate’ messages, or messages that could cause serious downward spirals in people suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. I am very concerned that some replies to nasty and ignorant comments elude to possible self harm as a result of reading such comments. It is very worrying that someone with depression may take comments like this to heart, and then take drastic action. As a sufferer of depression, with criticism a major trigger, I am most disappointed to see that comments like those made by Kev Man and the like have been permitted.

    1. I haven’t seen negative comments on here yet (since I just found this site), but I wholeheartedly agree that they should be kept from being posted. I can really relate as someone with not only depression, but BPD – BPD sufferers are often easily affected by negativity, and even on the more “positive” blogs / sites / articles, the sheer amount of hateful and destructive comments about people with BPD is disgusting, overwhelming, and disheartening. We need to have places to learn and discuss mental illnesses that aren’t dangerous for us!

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