I Have No Motivation: Am I Depressed?
By: Sarah Fader
Updated July 29, 2021
Medically Reviewed By: April Brewer , DBH, LPC
Do you ever feel exhausted all the time, or scared to get out of bed and face the day? If any of this sounds familiar, you may be suffering from depression or another mental health issue. Note that many people confuse depression with being unmotivated or "lazy." If you've ever said, "I do not have motivation," this doesn't necessarily mean you're depressed! Depression and a no motivation are related and can overlap; however, they can also be separate issues. Realize that you're not alone in these thoughts and feelings. Many people do develop motivation and ambition after struggling with no motivation.
You're Not Alone
If you're feeling unmotivated, there are many others like you who are struggling in finding a sense of purpose. According to the National Research Council and Forbes, approximately 40 percent of American high school students struggle with having and maintaining academic motivation. The statistic is alarming, but it signifies a common problem that starts at a young age. Having a lack of motivation can happen with anyone, teenagers or adults, but there are things that you can help you get out of that funk and motivate yourself again. The first thing to do is recognize that you're struggling, and then you can get to the source of it. You might start writing down how you feel in a private journal or talking to friends and family about your feelings. When you reveal your struggles with people who care, you can start working through them. Another thing that may help you is to process these issues with a mental health professional such as a therapist or counselor. Online therapy relieves symptoms of depression.
You can read the full study here: Depression: Effectiveness of a Multimodal Digital Psychotherapy Platform for Adult Depression: A Naturalistic Feasibility Study.
No motivation might also be a sign of a mental health issue such as depression. If you are among the individuals who live with depression, know that many people do successfully get treatment, and do move forward with their lives in productive ways, and do inspire themselves again. Depression is a common issue and there is help out there. A good first step is figuring out if you do have depression, another mental health issue, or no motivation stemming from 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. Traumatic or stressful events can cause 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. If you find that you're not experiencing any of these other symptoms, you could be stuck in a rut or a routine that doesn't satisfy you. There are some ways of helping yourself when you feel like there's nothing that excites you.
- Write a list of things that you are good at doing. Maybe these are activities you once engaged in, and it's okay if it's been a while since you've done them.
- Brainstorm little things that make you feel good. Maybe it's going for a walk or writing in your journal. When you write down your feelings and thoughts, you might discover new things that make you feel excited.
- Take your time. You do not have to discover what makes you feel better right away. It may take some time to get your bearings. Be patient with yourself.
- Talk with a therapist. A mental health professional can help you understand the source of your lack of motivation, and support you in overcoming these issues.
BetterHelp Empowers People
Online counseling is a unique form of treatment where an individual is paired with a mental health professional that meets their specific needs. If you're suffering from symptoms of depression or no motivation, you can find a therapist at BetterHelp who knows what treats it effectively and teach you coping skills so you start feeling better. Your online counselor can help you address your problems, and support you in working through them. BetterHelp has trained mental health professionals who understand how exhausting depression can be and they aren't afraid to help you tackle it.
An online counselor can look at your life from a bird's eye view and help you figure out if you're experiencing depression. Most importantly, they can give you suggestions and teach you skills of coping. No motivation can bring you down, but it's a treatable condition. Online counseling with BetterHelp is a great step in the direction of mental health recovery. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from people experiencing similar issues motivating themselves.
"Kristine is the best clinician I have ever worked with. She is so professional but friendly at the same time, and I feel very confident in her skills. She always asks me what I need out of our session and she gives me the tools I need to feel more in control. Every week, she helps me see and acknowledge my progress so I can keep going despite the setbacks. After years of dealing with depression and anxiety, I finally feel like I have found the right person to help me heal. I feel so proud of what she helped me accomplish so far, and that gives me hope for the future."
"Helping me through some strange times. I've learned some valuable things about myself. I'm finding paths to inner motivation."
What If I'm Depressed?
According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), depression affects approximately 1.5 percent of the United States population aged 18 and older. That works out to be around 3.3 million American adults. Although this can seem daunting, millions of people have proactively sought out treatment and experienced successful results. An extensive study by the Berkeley Well-Being Institute, for example, found that 70% of BetterHelp clients successfully reduced depressive symptoms. You may read the full study here. If you're dealing with no motivation, it's important to learn the signs of depression to begin to figure out if you're experiencing depression or a different issue.
Depression Signs And Symptoms
Depression can lead to a range of cognitive, behavioral, and physical symptoms. It's important to note that individuals may experience varying depressive symptoms. Depression doesn't look the same as two people. 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 loved
- Significant change or fluctuation in weight (excessive weight loss or gain)
- Noticed decreased ability of focus or concentrate, especially for longer periods
- Decreased drive or no drive
- Increased feelings of fatigue, more days than not
- A 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 causing significant stress
- Depressive symptoms have last longer than two weeks
If you are experiencing these symptoms, re-evaluate your circumstances. You can consider your social environment, your work, and your hobbies. Find the things you enjoy doing and spend more time doing them. Instead of over-indulging in food or entertainment, better yourself physically or mentally.
Steps to Improve Your Well-Being
Don't be so hard on yourself. You can't control your negative thoughts about yourself, but you can catch them, and reframe them into positive ones. If you find yourself criticizing yourself harshly for hurting someone's feelings, you can take a step back. We take on daily challenges in life, regardless of how big or small or good or bad we perceive them as. The reality is, with every decision we make in life, there poses a risk for a positive or negative outcome. Try 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. Also, you will gain fulfillment by helping others.
Relaxation matters. 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. In 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 you 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, practicing meditation or yoga, go on a walk, go on an outing with a friend, or exercise to burn off some stress.
Sleep is a priority. Are you well-rested in the morning? If not, it is essential to get into a regular sleeping pattern. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. Reduce the amount of sugar and caffeine intake before bedtime.
Avoid using drugs and alcohol to cope with problems. Alcohol and drugs will not fix your problems. They will only mask the challenges. Instead of self-medicating, confront your problems in therapy or a journal.
Accept 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 more healthily. The distressful thoughts and feelings will eventually pass, which will enable you to move on.
If you are still finding that the things you used to enjoy aren't providing you the 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.
Other Reasons Why You May Feel This Way
You Feel Overwhelmed and Stressed
Stress can be a reason why you lack drive. You may think it's a reason why you may stay motivated, but too much stress can hurt you and make it harder to keep going. Feeling overwhelmed can cause physical pain and other issues as well. When you feel overwhelmed, here are some things you can do.
- Stay healthy. Avoid eating junk food, as this can further your stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues you may have. Instead, exercise to help keep your mind off your stress. You do not need to pump iron, either. A brisk walk can help. If you do not care about your problems for a bit, you can come back with a fresh start.
- Break free from the stress you're feeling by breaking it down into smaller goals. Focus your energy on a goal you can do, and then work your way up. One step at a time.
- Why are you feeling so stressed? What is external drive? Do you not have the essential skills needed to handle your tasks? Knowing the reasons can help you figure out why you're so stressed, and you can seek help that way. Take it one step at a time, once again.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. Some people do not want to ask for help. You'll find that your friends and family and talking to people who are experts can help when you have no drive.
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to improve your state of mind. Don't worry about what you can't control. Think about your current achievements and feel great about them.
- Take care of other mental health problems you have as well, like anxiety and depression.
Another reason why you may lack drive is because of grief. When people die, and they are close to you, it can lead to various issues. Grief can lead to anxiety and depression and a loss of drive.
Also, grief is not as black and white as the model of grief makes it out to be. You can experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Your sleep patterns may be disturbed one day, and the next, you have about of social anxiety. Sometimes, you may even have a good day and then go back to feeling bad the next day. You may wonder what's a good idea when it comes to treating grief. There isn't any way to "get over" a loss, and people cope in different ways. However, if your grief is becoming a health condition, is lasting a long time, and is affecting how you're making money and living life, that's a problem.
Seeking grief therapy can make a huge difference; a therapist can help when you imagine feeling down about yourself. Also, peer support and people who can empathize with what you've lost are good moves as well. Grief can change in minutes, a day, and if not days, then a week. Getting help can stop this cycle of feeling sad minutes a day. You will always have feelings for who you've lost and feel upset for a long time, but a therapist can help you return to a normal life.
Any Other Mental Health Issue
Mental illness can cause, or contribute to, feeling a lack of drive. Mental illness doesn't discriminate, and mental illness is not your fault if you lack drive. However, if you lack drive, you must try to seek help.
Sometimes, mental illness makes you not stay motivated in other ways. Sometimes you are feeling okay, but then you get overstimulated and have a breakdown due to your mental illness. You were feeling motivated, but because of your mental illness or your personality disorders, it's difficult for you to try to continue trying.
Substance Abuse and Mental Addiction
Another mental illness that can make you lose drive is substance abuse and mental addiction. Abusing a substance like alcohol or another drug, legal or illegal, can lead to mental illness, substance abuse and mental issues, and other health issues. If you're addicted, it can lead to various health issues, but there are ways to overcome them. Here are some ways to overcome your addiction.
- Remember, addiction is a mental illness. Even if you chose to do a substance, mental addiction is a mental illness. Families with a mental illness history may be more prone to being addicted.
- Look at your local treatment options. Speaking to a substance abuse counselor is a good movie, and going to rehab is good as well. The treatment options you have can help prevent you from suffering from detox, and the treatment options can prevent you from running into triggers that flare up your mental illness.
- For some, they want to quit, but they don't feel motivated. There are ways to overcome this. Ask a friend or family member to help, and be honest about your mental illness and health issues.
- Go to online forums. Online forums allow you to tell your story anonymously, and online forums are moderated to prevent judgmental people and instead allow for people who are objective. There are plenty of online forums, so check them out.
- While addiction is a mental illness, having some responsibility is a good thing, as it gives you ways to overcome your shortcomings. Don't beat yourself over it, but instead realize it's easier for you to be tempted to try a substance, it's easier for you to be addicted, and it's easier for you to relapse. Be mindful of those aspects of your mental illness.
- If you know someone else who has the mental illness of addiction, remember that it's a mental illness where they have to seek help. Don't do things that enable their addiction, but also don't force them to get help if they don't feel inspired to do so. If they say, "I little drive to get help," you can't force it. But when that lack of drive turns to "I have the drive," jump on that.
- Addiction is a health issue and a mental health issue. It's time that we realize this and it's time to end the stigma. One way you can do so is to inform your family members and friends about addiction.
Some people have benefitted from taking a social media break. They find that spending too much time on Facebook gives you a loss of drive, and if not a loss of drive, it's just a time-waster.
Sometimes, breaks don't work. What may work is curating your feed to prevent posts that make you lose drive and instead encourage posts that help you raise the stakes of your own life. Look for good, wholesome posts that help you find the drive. If not find the drive, then stop posts that make you lose drive. Remember, there are other ways to communicate. Email address, in-person, or on the phone. If you're not feeling social media, you don't have obligation to try it if you're not feeling it. For some, online relationships don't work, and that's not a bad thing.
Tips To Get Back On Track
Here are some little ways to keep your drive up:
- Listen to music. Some people listen to music as a drive to work, and many find that music has different effects. Soft, instrumental music can make you focus. As for fast-paced, energetic music, it's extremely inspiring and can help give you the energy to work.
- Try learning a new language. Even if you don't need it in your life, it can help open up passages in your brain. You don't need to read a giant textbook, either. You can spend hours a day listening to courses or using apps to learn a new language. Watching YouTube may help, as well. People's lives can improve quite a bit once they're multilingual. Good luck!
- Write a letter to yourself. Many use a letter to talk to people, and people who receive a letter are glad to hear from them. But a letter to yourself can put into words how you're feeling, and maybe you can come up with the real reason you feel this way. With the letter, also focus on your accomplishments. Have you been working hard? Have you had days where you call in sick even though you aren't? What is your current situation? A letter can help the "I'm feeling" and "I've written" parts of your mind.
- We tend to procrastinate when we don't have drive. We mentioned it's easier to focus when you have music, but when you're still having problems, feel stuck on your assignment, and find it hard to continue, approach your problem from another angle. When it comes to the goals, projects, and assignments you have to do, but the goal into smaller bites. Think of a way to digest it better. You'll notice that it doesn't feel as bad to do your assignment if you look at it from another way.
- If you're losing interest in the activities you once loved, this could be a sign of minor depression, but it may also be a sign that you're just bored of your activities, especially if you have a fake it until you make it attitude and are not doing what you love. In that case, you may not need therapy and medication, but to try something new. Think of books that are worth reading. Ask yourself, "I'm passionate about what? What is the best book I've ever read?" These questions can help.
- If you're losing drive at work, it's a great time to look at your job. Is it a good job? Is the company on a downward spiral, and you don't know how to get out? Is the board of directors just incompetent? Sometimes, your situation isn't that fixable, but looking at your job may give you a small number of resources needed to make a change. Speaking of your job, maybe a part of your job is making you lose drive. Is it because this part violates your personal values? Have you tried multiple times to do the job, only to fail? Are there moments where you feel your job is for nothing? Have you stayed late without recognition? You may need to speak to a career counselor if you work hard, but are struggling with drive.
- Getting enough sleep may help you if you have a drive issue. Sometimes, a cup of coffee just doesn't cut it, especially if you have sleep problems one day at a time. Sometimes, you have a creative mind, and you don't find it useful to sleep. However, sleep is important. Take small steps to change your sleep ritual. Spend time unwinding. Read a book. If you still have trouble, don't beat yourself up for it, but seek a doctor. Many will say, "Sleeping better changed my life."
- Clean one thing. If you have dirty dishes, or clothes lying on the floor, and find that working in a dirty room or handling a project at work or home doesn't work when everything is a mess, clean up a bit. Even a digital cleanup can work, like cleaning out your email inbox.
- Take a mental health break when you have little drive. Delete social media for a bit, as social media can sometimes make the problem worse. Find yourself.
- Make a list. A list helps you prepare for tomorrow, and makes it easier for you to rest easier. Breaking down your tasks into smaller chunks always feels so good, as these smaller chunks can be tackled much easier. When you're in poor health, be the poor health physical or mental, it's nice to break things down.
- Remember that some days, you may feel worse than others. If you feel worse, it doesn't mean you're regressing. Some days, it's tough, and other days, it's better. Whenever you find yourself having a hard day, don’t criticize yourself. Remind yourself throughout the day, “This feeling will pass. I will feel better.”
- If you've lost all drive because of a mental health episode, try seeking help for it, and trying to look for the signs of an episode. If you have bipolar disorder, try having unproductive days on your depressive episodes. Talk to a specialist in bipolar disorder if you want to learn more.
- It's easy for us to dream big and want personal growth, but it does require a lot of work. Get off social media and read tales that make you dream big. Read stories about people who lost all drive, then experienced a moment of personal growth. It's easy to write off inspirational stories that make you dream big, but for some people, these dream big stories help.
Start Your Day Right
Start your day doing something positive, and you can see results. Here are some things you can start your day with.
- Read a few quotes about what you want to accomplish. Quotes can sound a bit cheesy, but for many, they work.
- Don't give troubling thoughts any mind. If you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, don't waste time mulling over them.
- Instead, wake up and think about things you're grateful for. Maybe you're grateful for the roof over your head. You're grateful you got out of bed. You're grateful for another day to live. Listing the things you're grateful for sounds a bit cheesy, but it works.
- Don't waste your morning dilly-dallying. Don't waste it on social media, and don't give your time to argue with anyone. Don't give in to that. That's not something successful people do.
- However, you can begin your morning reading inspiring blogs. Reading blogs about success, reading blogs about entrepreneurship, and reading blogs about life, in general, can help you. Successful people learn from other successful people.
- Remember that the definition of "successful people" differs. As you wake up, think of your success. If you have problems due to depression or other mental health issues, think of how far you've come.
If you don't know why you lack motivation, talk to your doctor, and seek the help of a licensed therapist. Sometimes, the tough times and unpleasant tasks of the world make it hard. Other times, life has ways to find your weaknesses and make you lose your drive, even if you've worked hard. As mentioned above, you can access BetterHelp from the safety of your own home. It's still your responsibility to speak to a therapist, but when you feel overwhelmed and don't feel like driving to a therapist at a certain hour, BetterHelp can help you.
With online therapy, you use an email, website, or smartphone to speak to a therapist about a health condition, no drive, or another mental health issue. Services tend to be cheaper, as therapists online don’t have to pay for an office space. If you have mental health issues, including no drive, check out BetterHelp.
Seeking Emergency Help
If lack of drive is so bad that you stop eating, think only negatively, and have suicidal thoughts, even during a small chunk of your time, you should talk to a suicide prevention hotline or seek the help of another service administration or mental health services administration. It doesn't matter if you've made a suicide attempt before or haven't. Seeking help is critical. A professional can help you talk about it free of charge with a prevention hotline, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You Can Feel Motivated Again
We hope this article helped you figure out why you have lost drive, or why you can't find a reason to continue working toward your goals. Even people who always raise the stakes can still have problems. Some of the biggest names out there have gone through periods where they can't find the drive or can't find a reason to continue.
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