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 2023, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2015/03/about-depression-caused-lack-of-motivation
Author: Mike Ehrmantrout
Sorry for the mistakes but can't find an edit button :)
You're 100% right about the weeds! Haha That is also how i trick myself into doing things. Ive never been diagnosed with depression, where i live has absolutely no help with mental illness and i cant afford it. I know self diagnoses is dangerous and not advised but when you have no option, its youre only option.
That's a really good idea. Small steps and all that.
Frankie, I appreciate your comment so much. Everyone reading this article and replying has something in common--we're all experiencing some form of mental/emotional distress, and we're all on the computer reading about it! I must say, computer usage can contribute to depression, anxiety, etc. The internet is endless, and in using it we can forget our bodies. Reconnecting with our bodies can help spark our minds and emotions to shift, repair, spark again. I often feel the anxiety around things I'm supposed to do, and just can't do. I'm learning that it's okay to lie on the couch during the day sometimes, just rest, making it very comfortable for myself with a blanket, a mug of tea, looking out the window. I don't ask myself to do more. I tell myself it's okay. I comfort myself by saying, "I love you". Try this if you can. You don't have to feel it, or even believe it when you start saying it. But you can start saying this as a replacement for what Buddhists call "the second arrow"--all the negative judgements we levy against ourselves when we're already feeling badly. A little time in nature, or with an animal can help, too. Sit by a tree. Look at the details of a flower. You don't have to feel anything. You're not "doing life wrong" if you don't feel anything sometimes. Then, when you feel motivated to do a little something, anything at all, like Frankie says above just do one thing. You'll begin to get out of your mind and see that you can do more things. It doesn't mean you'll never feel badly again, or have to restart like this from time to time, but it can really help.
Thank you, Frankie!
This idea of pulling just one weed, washing one plate, sock hit me. My hubby died suddenly 14 months ago and then we got the Pandemic. Double grief! If you care to write me firstname.lastname@example.org ....it would be good to share progress and hope. Sky
Kev, you think you are the better person because you don't have a mental illness. No, WE are the strong ones who have to battle almost intolerable illnesses. You probably work five days a week and then give yourself a well earned weekend break. Ours is a constant battle, no breaks, fighting everyday sometimes to stay alive. I wouldn't wish it on you. [moderated]
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
If you're not feeling like yourself and are feeling apathetic then there's still an underlying problem. Talk to someone about it, the world is full of people looking to help.
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.
For me,I think not knowing a acceptable outlet for my anger is what leads yo depression?
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 !
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 ???
Thank you for a great post. I especially love the quote!
The town you live in; I'm having that same feeling. I've been trying to get away from here since I was a kid, wknds and Summers in the country with friends ever chance I got since I was 6 yrs old. I know many people don't get that opertunity.... I was also a certifiable horse Nut from the age of 4/5. They literally saved my life as long as they were in it. It's been 5 yrs now without a dog or horse or the country. I'm back in my (for me) Toxic home town. My family is neg and super critical. You hear "call a friend, reach out to loved ones. You don't reach out to pet a dog that bites. Everyone has their own problems. Been Battling Workers Comp for over 5 yrs now. If I Am in a good mood, the pain knocks it out of me, or people insinuating I should be more productive. I pretty much Live on a sofa 24/7. At the couple friends I have left Who feel bad for me, until they hint it's time to go. Have tried every med, they don't work. I don't care about Anything anymore, not a thing! And people think since your not working, you automatically available for them, "but all you do is watch TV all day" Ruptured discs, zero income, every year is worse than the last. When do you just throw in the towel?
One big thing I can relate to is the fact that physical issues/pain makes it just so much harder. When my body is willing, my mind is on the fritz. When my mind is cooperating and I feel I could tackle anything I put my mind to, my body goes on strike. What's even worse is when the two collides and just as your feeling like your back on track, everything just derails again and it gets harder and harder each time to get back the courage, let alone motivation, to try again. I know exactly how you feel when you say you don't care about anything anymore. The feeling is absolutely overwhelming when someone starts in with the "but your not doing anything right now in any case" ... which is completely untrue ... because I am doing something at that point in time, trying to keep my head above water while my mind is doing everything it can to find a way to drown. The family being negative and critical I have reasoned as they're way of trying to help, yet for me that's not helping. I need someone to help me and support me actively instead of standing passively on the sidelines, trying to goad me into action through emotional blackmail or reverse psychology. No, people can't do things for me, but I can't do it alone and the kind of support that my family tends to give, as well intended and caring as it may be, still leaves me feeling utterly and completely alone and helpless.
Throw in the towel? To who’s Benefit? Elle?! Darling, it’s easy babe?!
Every morning you wake up and see yourself in your bathroom mirror brushing those teeth of yours, As it is for all of us, is the most important person in the whole wide world! That person in the mirror comes first, as it does for ALL of us. You as I do come first. If those around me don’t like it then they need to brush there teeth more. 😂😂🌹🌹👊
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
Maybe it is the other way around? Could it be the lack of motivation that causes depression?
That's very interesting. I never thought of it like that.
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..
Wow... I will need to rethink my strategy!!! Great thought.
No I don't think so. I never lacked motivation till I got a divorce. Depression causes me to not want to do anything.
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.
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.
I agree, after I make myself clean I feel better, for a little while, maybe a day or two. Even if I keep up with it then I feel like what s the point. Who really cares. My husband passed away 4 years ago today. But he had rejected me b4 his wreck. It’s a very confusing emotion, depression. I’ve tried to be a pleaser my entire life now at 56 I just don’t care anymore. I want friends but not the effort I have to put out for it & in my experience I’m always making myself fit in. Sorry I kind of ranted.
Yes, if i had motivation to get out of bed n do things i would't be depressed that i didn't get things done, again
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.
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!
Kev Man Will get so depressed. Life has a funny way of teaching us.
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!
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)
Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Reading your post has made it just a little easier to cope.
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]
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.
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...=(
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
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.
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.
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!
Thank you and so many others for taking the time, finding the energy to contribute here, to help others and help yourselves. I hate that people derail by one stupid commentator and the thread turns useless. We don't need public punishing - we are seeking to stay on and learn more on topic. The comments from the start of this string are the most useful as they stayed the course...sign if the times? My daughter suffers greatly, has attempted to take her life many times. As a Mom I want to fix her, but I can't. I need to learn, i need to seek support, i need to never give up on her, even when she has to drag herself out of bed every day. Thank you to all of you that have shed light and given true references on ways to help her. God protect you all.
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.
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.
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!
Very well said.
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.
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.
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
Same I think that I suffer from something because I constantly negatively self-talk and always want to to do something but can't find the motivation or energy to do so?!