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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.

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

  1. I’m in this boat with many things I want to do, but I just can’t. I can’t even get myself to pick up the phone to call someone to take care of some yard work for me. I have MS which could be the source of the depression, but who cares. I just want to be able to do some work around the house on the weekends. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy!

  2. Some things I learned:
    Do the dishes. Do the laundry. Take a shower and wash your hair. Get a haircut. (Can work miracles). Don’t think about it, force yourself. Organize your drawers. Sometimes just sleep the day away. Don’t be perfect, just do as much as you can. Keep order if you can. If that seems useless that’s just the evil depression talking. Don’t believe your feelings when you are depressed. They are lying to you. When you feel horrible say “I am depressed.” It helps you realize that feelings are not reality. Cut yourself major slack. If you are alive, fed and sheltered then you did OK so far.
    Also guys have a problem talking about their feelings. Duh. A man wouldn’t be here unless he was dealing.
    All these ideas are not perfect but they can lift you one or two notches so can see what tomorrow brings.

    What all these things say is treat yourself the same way that someone who really loves you would. Lastly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation how you got this way. Either they accept it or they don’t. (Hint, ditch the ones who don’t)

  3. People who don’t understand depression try to over simplify the problem. Someone in my family once told me ” just don’t think like that” If it were that easy to do, I’d have done that a long time ago. People who say that can’t understand that I don’t choose to think like that. When people like you make comments like that,people like me want to lash out at you, for example that emblem on your identity, makes me think that you think you’re superman, you’re shield looks like superman’s emblem , pasted on an emblem of the world. So Kev man sounds like superman, and it sounds like you have an overinflated ego. You’re no better than anyone else. I’m kinda curious as to why you’re even posting on this site. Maybe you’d think different if you had a loved one who had depression, or maybe you do, and you can’t take that someone else is getting more attention than you. I’d like to tell you that you’re a better person than everyone else, guess what, you’re not. So Kev man, you da man, I wish I was just like you, not! You say things like you do just to get attention. You don’t care if it’s positive attention or negative, you just crave attention, congratulations, your statement accomplished your goal, because people responded. [comment edited by moderator]

  4. Kev Man
    I was where u are the first 25years of my.life. I saw and knew the dead beat, weak minded, wreaks, doing nothing, then I feel into a hole in my life I struggle with every day to climb out of. I had no clue that I would find it impossible not to go back to bed for days at a time. I figured some physical thing like so gla.d or organ was screwed up. Nope, I am depressed, every day all day long. Meds help alot but I’m not who I was, I understand and it sucks. I don’t know I’d go back to being so work drive, that wasn’t healthy ether, so I work and fight the emotions I have every day. The not till you are in my shoes, due you know squat aboute.

  5. Hi, I’m suffering from lack of enthusiasm in life. I suffered depression a year ago and was able to get out of it. But now it came back much worse because now I dont want to do anything at all. I was a victim of an accident that led to place pelvic implant that cost me so much limitations. This always hurt especially the fact that I can’t find work to regain my life. This is the cause of my depression. Right now, I don’t want to get involve socially not even facebook or in the world, just living…=(

    1. I can relate to how you are feeling and why. I was born with cp abd teased relenttlessly. I overcame that and the fact that my mother hated me. I dont remember a day without pain since about age 17. In 2002 I was in an accident which caused alot of damage ti my spine, neck, hips, etc. and in 2009 i got two spinal reconstructive surgeries i was put on disability in 2013. since then i have become more and more reclusive. much more likely to not leave my house for weeks at a time. i want ti do things, like i used to, i just cant. im nit living, im surviving

  6. Disregard that comment she made. You have nothing to be ashamed of. This is a tough life to live. I have some segments of the topic from my script on WordPress. If you like to see that you are really not alone. Love and Strength to all of you.

  7. Where to begin. I am sure things began in 1970 from a PTSD reaction to my young brain being shocked with close combat. (fight or flight). Supressed with lack of understanding of what I had become after the war experience. 35 years later with many intervening stories, the VA has given me direction through counseling. In the midst of treatment I could not fathom why with so many things that needed to be done, I could not motivate. Discovered depression, and learned it isn’t laziness. In the meantime fat has accumulated, muscles have atrophied, and mood swings are annoying. Many other health issues service related have come to bear. Now scheduled for catheter ablation. Have no physical or motivational energy. Reminds me of those famous three letters of my time in service FTA. Hoping these treatments result in a better me sometime soon, and the same for you all.

    1. Please also get some testing for Adrenal fatigue, regular doctors don’t always recognize it unless it’s extreme but it’s very real! Naturopathic doctors like mine do testing for cortisol, and Adrenal function usually caused by long term stress. Depression is only one of many symptoms as one depleted organ affects another to keep taking nutrients they need to keep body in some form of stability. Look it up, affects more women than men but men too can have Adrenal Fatigue or Adrenal insufficiency as it’s also known. Dr. Wilson and Dr. Lam both have good websites to explain it, but because it affects so many functions in your body, eg. Thyroid, metabolism (of nutrients especially), mood, hormones etc. hard to giagnose and dr’s attribute symptoms to other things…aging, depression, here’s a pill…but once you get body back in balance (can take a while as it took a while to get depleted) you will gradually feel much better! Hope this makes sense as I can’t see what I’m writing only current few words!) I am 2yrs in on this journey, now feel much more alive, as felt I was dying from the inside out! Now fighting residual mild depression and no motivation, mood low etc. Found I’m low in my B vitamins and Vitamin D very low, and other stuff. I also had gut issues from stress, which contributed to malabsorption of nutrients even though I was eating healthy! Sorry to ramble on, hope this helps someone out there. I’m still seeing Naturopath, better than my useless insensitive GP! Taking specializes supplements, and doing blood work to gauge progress. Found hair analysis very helpful too, though bit pricey, gave me a window into minerals low in, heavy metals high in etc., can all contribute to depression and energy. Good luck to all! Again sorry I’m on iPad mini and pecking this out letter by letter lol! Get well!

  8. Kev Man I suspect you’ve got the indignation in the replies that you were trying to provoke. I don’t know your religion, or even if you have one, but there is a saying ‘there but for the grace of God go I’….. one day you just might find out what depression is really like. It can happen to absolutely anybody.

  9. I wish i was mentally ill. Then i could get a pass on having to live up to the average person’s responsibilities. But instead, because i work so hard to maintain, im the one who had to pick up the slack you broken brains leave behind. Must be nice to be allowed to be lazy and have the world feel sorry for you.

    1. You have got to be kidding… Depression is a serious deal, just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean you should belittle the people who do.
      And fyi, mostly even severely depressed people WANT to be helpful but it is a situation that quite literally saps a person’s strength to do so. In many cases, when a depressed person causes a problem or makes a mistake in public or at work, they do everything they possibly can to make it right in order not to feel more depressed and like a total failure.
      Depression also doesn’t just happen. Something, whether it is simply being alone for too long and not being able to trust people, or whether it is something drastic like losing family members or finding out your spouse is cheating on you right after you find out you have cancer….
      Posting BS like this just makes things worse, you should be ashamed!

    2. It’s pathetic that you have to get online anonymously to make fun of others for feeling a certain way. You obviously ARE VERY ill mentally due to the fact that you’re making fun of people who truly feel the depths of depression. Next time you have something negative to say about how others feel, just don’t.

    3. You are seriously misinformed. Depression is an illness, not a character flaw. The brain is an organ just like the liver, heart and lungs. It can become ill and cease to function properly. Do you blame someone for getting Alzheimers or a brain tumor? Extensive research has shown that chemical imbalances involving neurotransmitters are a major factor in depression. This can severely affect someone’s perception and behavior. I believe people are responsible for their choices, but in the case of depression one cannot simply “choose” to not have symptoms any more than a diabetic can lower their blood suagar just by willing it. The best choice a depressed person can make is to seek medical treatment and emotional support. Unfortunately many do not because of the social stigma associated with mental illness. They are afraid of the judgement that often results from admitting that they have one. I don’t doubt that there are some lazy people out there who claim depression as an excuse for their behavior. But to assume that all depressed people are lazy and irresposible is not only wrong, it’s cruel and insensitive. They have a serious and sometimes even life threatening illness and are as deserving of support and compassion as anyone else in that situation.

      Sorry this got so long but it hit a nerve with me. I have had depression during my life and have known others who did as well. None of us wanted to feel how we felt. We weren’t making excuses or seeking attention. It’s like being lost in a dark tangled forest and not seeing any way out. My mother-in-law criticized me and accused me of being “lazy” and “no good” for her son. I was already feeling worthless and her scorn almost drove me over the edge to suicide. Thankfully for me, my husband was supportive and I got help and recovered. Not everyone is so blessed. So I implore you to be a part of the solution and not the problem. Learn about an illness and have the facts before you disparage someone and cause unintentional harm.

      1. Hi Amy that is so true I do suffer from something I don’t know maybe some kind of imbalances where I don’t know how to make my self happy and don’t lack of activity I don’t want to do please tell me who help you thanks.marry with kids don’t know about love living like a different person

    4. The only thing that is truly sad us I know why I’m on this site. I’m here to find answers to better myself because we hate pity. But honestly better question is why are you on this site? I envy you. I wish I could just make myself be normal and angry and work hard. That would be heaven to me.

    5. Well your comment has just about tipped me over the edge. I’m ashamed of my illness & people you just re-enforce how useless I am, no use to anyone and not fit to live. You’ve made my mind up for me.

      1. 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.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

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