I Have No Motivation To Do Anything: Am I Depressed?
By Sarah Fader
Updated April 15, 2019
Reviewer April Brewer , DBH, LPC
"I didn't want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that's sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like when you wake up from a nightmare you're so relieved. I woke up in a nightmare."
― Ned Vizzini, It's Kind of a Funny Story
According to the AADA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), depression affects around 1.5 percent of the United States population ages 18 and older in any given year. This works out to be approximately 3.3 million American adults.
Have you ever found yourself struggling to get through the day without crying? Do you constantly feel tired or upset? Do the things you used to enjoy bring you no fulfillment anymore?
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from depression. However, many people confuse depression with being unmotivated or "lazy." If you've ever said to yourself: I have no motivation to do anything, this doesn't necessarily mean you're depressed. Depression and a lack of motivation are related. However, they are different. They can overlap, and a person who is dealing with either of these issues may not understand the differences between them.
Am I Depressed Or Is It Something Else?
If you are depressed, you would have other symptoms other than lack of motivation such as sadness, tearfulness, irritability, weight loss or gain and possibly thoughts of self-harm. Many factors can contribute to depression. Traumatic or stressful events can lead to depression. There may also be a genetic component. More women than men are diagnosed with depression, though this may be because men don't seek treatment as often.
Depression Signs And Symptoms
Depression can lead to a range of cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms. It is important to note that individuals may experience different or varying signs and symptoms from the next person who may also experience depressive symptoms. Also, all of the symptoms may not present to warrant a diagnosis of clinical depression. Here are some common signs & symptoms:
- Low or depressed mood or noticeable mood swings
- Loss of interest or pleasure in doing things that you once found to be fulfilling
- Significant change or fluctuation in weight (excessive weight loss or gain)
- Noticed decreased ability to focus or concentrate, especially for longer periods of time
- Decreased motivation or lack of motivation
- Increased feelings of fatigue, more days than not
- Decreased level of energy
- Slowness in activities
- Sleeping difficulties (not enough, too much, or interrupted sleep pattern)
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Recurring thoughts of death or others dying
- Depressive symptoms appear to be causing significant stress
- Depressive symptoms have last longer than 2 weeks
While taking into consideration the above common depression signs and symptoms, only licensed medical providers and mental health providers such as Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Professional Counselors, or Clinical Social Workers have the ability to diagnose clinical depression.
If you still have the desire and the ability to get out of bed and go about your day but feel lethargic, this is probably your lack of motivation coming into play. Some factors can decrease motivation, but the most common one relates to a lack of interest in your daily activities.
If this is what's happening, it's wise to re-evaluate your circumstances. You can consider your social environment, your work, and hobbies. Find the things you enjoy doing and spend more time doing them. Instead of over-indulging in food or entertainment, take steps to better yourself physically or mentally.
There are certainly preventative steps that you could take to live happy, less anxiously, be more effective in relationships, and more productive in everyday life. What are some proactive ways to assist with improving your wellbeing? Here are some suggestions to improve your daily life:
- Try not to be so hard on yourself. When life deals you lemons, then it is time to make your best pitcher of lemonade! We take on daily challenges in life, no matter how big or small or good or bad we perceive them to be. The reality is with every decision we make in life, there poses a risk for a positive or negative outcome. Try to do your best and make the best decision that you believe is right. Try to counter self-criticism with positive praise, especially with even your smallest accomplishments throughout the day.
- Treat people how you would like to be treated. Be kind to others. Try to get involved with community events or even help a stranger today. People appreciate an unexpected helping hand. In addition, you will also gain fulfillment by helping others.
- Try to relax. There is healthy stress then there is also unhealthy stress. An example of healthy stress could be experiencing anxiety about an upcoming job interview in one week, finding out if you will be expecting a baby boy or a baby girl, preparing to go out on a date, or preparing for an upcoming examination. On the contrast, unhealthy stress could be cycling thoughts about if you will get back with your ex, get a new promotion at work, or worrying about bad things happening to your or your loved ones. Try to make your "peace of mind" a priority and relax. Relax by taking slow and deep breaths, listen to soothing sounds or music, watch a movie, practice meditation or yoga, go on a walk, go on an outing with a friend, or exercise to burn off some stress.
- Have some fun and enjoy yourself. Often times, life requires us to be serious and structured. When is the last time you had some real fun and enjoyed some alone time or time with family and friends? The same way that you schedule time for mandatory daily tasks, try to schedule time for yourself to unwind and enjoy yourself. After all, this could help uplift your mood and increase your self-confidence.
- Participate in a hobby or learn a new skill. What are some of your favorite hobbies? If you can't remember, maybe it is time for you to revisit this and get involved in a past hobby or finding a new hobby, a new leisure interest, or taking up a new skill. This could help improve your self-confidence, improve your mood, engage with people or meet new people, enhance your occupational skillset or prepare you for a new job.
- Increase physical activity/try to exercise regularly. There are various mental health benefits from exercising regularly. To name a few, you will feel more energized, it could uplift your mood, increased energy levels, reduces stress and anxiety levels, improves sleeping patterns, and improves your overall physical health.
- Try to eat healthier and nutritious meals. Eat well balanced, proportioned, and regular meals. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. And try to decrease fast-food outings (greasy, salty, and sugary foods & drinks).
- Sleep is an important priority. Are you well rested in the morning? If not, it is important to get into a regular sleeping pattern. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time regularly. Reduce the amount of sugar and caffeine intake prior to bedtime.
- Avoid using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with life. Alcohol and drugs will not fix the problem, they will only mask it, and likely make whatever "problems" or challenges that you are going through worse.
- Accept the reality. We often create unwanted stress and low mood by excessively worrying about things that are not within our control. Acknowledging and accepting what we can and cannot change in our lives, will allow us to cope in a healthier manner, then the distressful thoughts and feelings will eventually surpass and allow you to move on.
If you are still finding that the things you used to enjoy aren't providing you joy they once did, speak to a mental health professional. A therapist can help you figure things out so you can start to feel better.
Differentiating between depression and a lack of motivation is only the first step in getting better - the next step is to take charge of your life. Talking to a therapist will help you distinguish between lack of motivation and depression.