Am I depressed or lazy?
The symptoms of depression and the traits of laziness look similar to the untrained eye. A lack of motivation and energy as well as a sense of futility and difficulty engaging with the world characterize both.
However, it is important to understand that there are distinct key differences between the two.
Laziness is usually temporary and can be overcome. Depression too can be overcome, but it is also a serious mental health condition that is not overcome so easily and may require ongoing professional support.
Some depressed people are called lazy by those who are unaware of their condition or who know the person is depressed but don’t understand the condition fully enough to truly empathize with the person suffering.
Some people who feel lazy may worry that they’re depressed, which may also come from a lack of awareness about the nature of depression.
If you’re wondering if you’re depressed or just lazy, read on. In this article, we’ll explore the nature of depression.
We’ll take a look at the signs and symptoms based on evidence-based scientific research and discuss why major depression is very different from laziness as a temporary trait.
We’ll also offer some insightful questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re lazy or if you’re depressed. Finally, we’ll offer some evidence-based tips and advice to deal with battling depression if you discover that it’s affecting you.
Depression (major depressive disorder) is a mental illness that affects over 264 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
It is often misunderstood – many people confuse real clinical depression with feelings of sadness or laziness. We all feel sad from time to time, struggle to feel motivated, or find it hard to muster up the energy needed to get through the day.
If you’re feeling low, lazy, or unmotivated, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re depressed. However, these feelings are characteristics of the condition.
Often, sadness and a lack of motivation are temporary feelings that pass by themselves and may stem from immediate life circumstances such as over-working, the end of a relationship, or not getting enough healthy nutrients and regular exercise.
People with depression experience a broad range of symptoms that impact their daily lives. Hopelessness, despair, apathy, or emotional numbness are just some of these symptoms and can make it hard for depressed people to enjoy their lives.
Depression makes it hard to get out of bed in the morning, so a person suffering may regularly sleep in. Going to work or school and interacting with others can be a challenge because the person suffering may not see the point in these things anymore.
Activities and hobbies such as going out with friends, playing sports, or anything else that the person previously enjoyed doing become a source of dread or loses appeal, which leads the depressed person into social withdrawal and isolation.
The person may even begin neglecting personal hygiene by not showering, brushing their teeth, or cleaning their living space. The sense of hopelessness and despair that characterize the condition tend to overpower one’s drive to properly take care of themselves.
Am I depressed?
One of the reasons why many people confuse laziness with depression is that the condition can take some time to appear and takes even longer to count as an official diagnosis.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), an official diagnosis of depression by a medical or mental health professional can provide medical advice only after the person affected has been experiencing the symptoms for most of the day, every day, for at least two weeks.
The issue, then, with knowing whether you have depression or not is that it can come on slowly. You’re unlikely to be completely fine one day and then fall into a two-week, all-day, everyday pit of depression overnight.
The symptoms may come on slowly and develop over time and if left unchecked, or if difficult life circumstances are affecting the person that are not spoken about, supported, or resolved. Depression can persist without a person even realizing that they are depressed.
Early warning signs of depression
The early warning signs of depression may be confused with laziness by the person suffering or those around them. For example, many people with depression have heard someone tell them ‘you’re just lazy!’ or to ‘stop wasting your time.’
Such demands and criticisms can be hard to hear, particularly because the person suffering may not yet know that they have depression but have begun to find it difficult to engage in regular daily life.
You may be experiencing the early stages of depression if you experience some or all of the following:
- Losing interest in things that were once fun and enjoyable, including hobbies, social activities, and sex
- Sadness, a low mood that persists and influences your attitude and behavior in your daily life
- Social withdrawal – hiding away from friends and family members, avoiding their efforts to make contact with you
- Appetite changes – eating more or less than usual, finding comfort in food, avoiding food as much as possible, binge-eating, turning to ‘quick energy’ foods such as snacks and other sugary foods
- Changes in sleeping pattern – sleep issues such as insomnia or trouble staying asleep, sleeping more than usual, sleeping until late in the day
- Tiredness, fatigue – a lack of energy and motivation, difficulty engaging in with daily tasks and responsibilities
- Poor concentration and attention – difficulty focusing on tasks, feelings of confusion and disorientation, decline in work or school performance, poor memory, short term memory loss
It’s crucial to learn how to recognize these early warning signs before they develop into full-blown depression.
While it’s true that you may experience some of the above if you’re going through a period of laziness, particularly tiredness, over-sleeping, and a lack of interest or motivation in hobbies and activities, it’s still useful to bear in mind that these are some early warning signs of depression.
Can Depression Cause Memory Loss?
Depression impacts brain function, particularly cognition. Hence, depression can lessen the ability to store short-term memory.
Research has revealed that depression and memory-related problems such as forgetfulness and confusion are interlinked. People with depression also have frequent sleep disruptions. This poor quality of sleep also affects memory.
Depression can usually cause short-term memory loss, and notably, other types of memory are not affected. Long-term or procedural memory is not impacted by depression, whereas prospective memory, which entails planning for something that needs to be accomplished soon, is affected.
Meanwhile, if depression is left untreated, there will be a risk for long-term memory problems like dementia.
Symptoms of depression
If left unresolved, these early warning signs can progress, and you may enter a period of depression, at which point it can be hard to keep your physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being in check.
When depression happens, you’re likely to experience a range of difficult and debilitating symptoms that can have a negative knock-on effect in all areas of your life.
Depression can impact your career, your academic performance, and your close interpersonal relationships. It also poses a major health risk – many people who face depression try to fight their condition with self-medication and avoidance, such as substance abuse or misuse and other dangerous activities.
Some of the common symptoms of depression include:
- Personal neglect
- Neglect of relationships
- Hopelessness, despair, thoughts of self-harm or suicide
- Substance abuse
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional pain or numbness
- Persistent sadness
Laziness and depression can sometimes go hand in hand, but just because you’re feeling lazy doesn’t mean you’re depressed. It’s important to remember that we live in a society that praises hard work and success but rarely considers the importance of rest and relaxation.
It’s as though our value and worth are based on how productive we are. Such a belief that is harmful to our mental and emotional health is a surefire way to reach the point of burnout.
As such, much of the time, when we’re feeling lazy, we’re simply exhausted. Our minds and bodies struggle to get up and get motivated because their need for rest, relaxation, and quiet reflection has been neglected.
It’s perfectly normal to want to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life every once in a while and have a couch day. Doing so does not make you lazy and is not a reflection of your character.
What causes laziness?
As much as we need to rest and relax, it’s true that you can have too much of a good thing. Feeling lazy now and again is fine, but if the feeling persists, it’s worth checking in with yourself and seeing if there’s a serious problem lying beneath the surface.
Ask yourself if you’ve been feeling more tired than usual lately and if the answer is yes, consider the causes.
Has work been more demanding? Have you been experiencing problems in a relationship that have led you to worry more than usual? These things can take a toll on our mental energy and are valid reasons why you may feel extra tired lately.
Your feelings and state of being are entirely valid, so if you’re feeling lazy, it’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. However, we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves as best as we can.
When we don’t, we do an injustice to our mind and body and may suffer from psychological and somatic difficulties as a result.
Habits that lead to laziness
If you’re feeling lazy lately, consider how well you’ve been nourishing your body. The foods we choose to eat have a significant impact on how we feel mentally and physically.
If you’ve been reaching for unhealthy snack foods more than fruits and vegetables, then you may experience a spike in energy in the short term, but in the long term, you’ll feel more tired.
Similarly, if you’ve been drinking a lot of alcohol or using drugs lately, your body will likely feel more tired and run down than usual.
Similarities between depression and laziness
As mentioned, depression and laziness share some similarities. Depression can make us seem lazy, and laziness can look like depression.
For example, eating unhealthy foods can make us lazy, but choosing to eat those foods first may come from the need for a quick fix to get more energy, something lacking because we’re depressed.
Excessive use of drugs or alcohol can bring you down and make you lazy in your day to day life, but the initial choice to use more drugs and alcohol may be an attempt to escape from the difficulties and challenges associated with depression.
How to overcome laziness and depression
Typically, laziness is temporary, while depression can last for a long time. If you’re struggling with depression, then the good news is that the condition can be overcome.
It’s usually best approached with a combination of self-help and professional treatment, including psychotherapy and medical assistance if necessary.
Since depression and laziness share similarities, it’s not always easy to determine what’s going on with you. A practical approach you can take to determine what’s actually happening is to try to overcome your laziness with the tools and tips outlined below.
If you try these tips, but they don’t seem to be working, then there may be a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.
How to stop being lazy
If laziness is the issue, try to make the following changes in your life:
1. Be mindful of your diet
As mentioned, the foods we choose to eat have a huge impact on how we feel. Research has found that around 95 percent of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates our mood and promotes feelings of positivity and well-being, is produced in the gut.
Therefore, when we eat healthy foods that create friendly bacteria in the gut, we produce high-quality serotonin that the brain then uses to help us feel good.
On the other hand, if we eat junk food and intake toxic substances regularly, the quality and quantity of our serotonin are reduced, and the mind suffers.
2. Set achievable goals
If we overload ourselves with tasks and responsibilities, we’re likely to become overwhelmed. We’re human, so there’s a natural limit to how much we can get done in a day.
If we take on too much, not only does it become difficult to get things done, it becomes difficult to get anything done.
Understand that you have to rest and relax to be productive, so don’t try to push yourself beyond your capabilities. Doing so is a great demotivator and is sure to make you feel exhausted and lazy.
Engaging in regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to increase your body’s natural energy. In the short term, you may feel more tired if you’re exercising more, but over time you’ll build your stamina and endurance and find yourself with much more natural energy than before.
When it’s more than laziness…
If you’ve tried to improve your diet, let yourself relax instead of pushing yourself to achieve unrealistic goals. If you are committed to regularly exercise. and still feel exhausted and unmotivated, you may be struggling with depression.
Fortunately, treatment is available for depression, and many of us who suffer do eventually overcome the condition.
The important thing to remember is that depression is a very real mental health condition, so it’s crucial to seek professional help and support.
Treatment for depression
If you’re struggling with depression, try your best to keep up with a healthy diet, exercise, and achievable goals.
Other than those self-help techniques, speak to a therapist. A licensed therapist can offer a range of evidence-based psychotherapeutic tools in a safe environment.
In therapy, you can explore the roots of your depression and get help in investigating any other underlying mental disorders or issues that may be exacerbating it. A therapist may also recommend visiting a doctor to ask about medical assistance if your depression is having a significant negative impact on your daily life.
Depression is a chronic and debilitating condition that affects hundreds of millions of people every day, but it can be overcome.
Many people have experienced the lowest lows of this condition and successfully come out of it, so you can too. Just remember that, as with any mental health condition, the earlier you seek professional help, the greater your chance of recovery.