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When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation

March 18, 2015 Mike Ehrmantrout

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." 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.

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

APA Reference
Ehrmantrout, M. (2015, March 18). When Depression Causes a Lack of Motivation, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 15 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2015/03/about-depression-caused-lack-of-motivation



Author: Mike Ehrmantrout

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Lucia Loked
says:
November, 1 2017 at 1:08 am
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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

HeatherLyn
says:
November, 29 2017 at 6:32 am
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.

[edited]

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Keet
says:
January, 17 2018 at 2:49 am
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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Pearl
says:
April, 29 2018 at 4:20 pm
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
Tom M.
says:
August, 27 2016 at 4:27 pm
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.
Michele
says:
July, 8 2016 at 2:05 pm
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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Devorah
says:
June, 18 2017 at 1:12 pm
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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Sonia
says:
June, 20 2017 at 1:40 pm
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.
EboniW
says:
June, 18 2016 at 1:18 pm
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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Tom
says:
September, 8 2017 at 5:38 pm
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.
Kathleen
says:
August, 11 2015 at 7:14 am
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!
carol bennett
says:
May, 13 2015 at 4:34 am
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
Lahti Ann
says:
April, 17 2015 at 11:38 pm
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.
Courtney
says:
April, 17 2015 at 8:24 pm
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.
Renita
says:
April, 16 2015 at 3:04 pm
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

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Tom
says:
September, 8 2017 at 5:44 pm
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.
Renita
says:
March, 22 2015 at 7:24 am
I agree with what you are saying but what if the lack of motivation is due to anhedonia brought on by antipsychotic medication?

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Didi williams
says:
January, 20 2019 at 1:25 pm
Stop the meds?... Or take more to counteract it?
Lee
says:
April, 6 2019 at 7:05 pm
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.
Beth
says:
March, 19 2015 at 3:07 pm
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.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Tyler Andress
says:
June, 11 2017 at 3:32 am
Financial Difficulties and Depression

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

BK
says:
September, 10 2018 at 3:10 pm
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!

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