Why some people think depression is laziness
Lack of motivation can sometimes be mistaken for laziness, especially if you are living with depression. But they are not the same, and using these labels does not help.
Lately, you don’t want to do anything anymore. Zero. Unless, maybe, lay back on the couch and scroll through social media.
Or, maybe you got up reluctantly for work, feeling like your motivation and energy were exhausted. Performing other tasks can seem just as difficult.
So you ask yourself, “Am I lazy or depressed?” What is happening to me ?”
You are not the only one asking yourself these questions. It’s natural to wonder why you have a hard time getting things done.
But learning the difference between what some people call laziness and the signs of depression is important and can help you get the support you need.
Laziness is not a formal symptom of any type of depression.
âThere are many symptoms of depression that can reflect what we think of as laziness,â says Ernesto N. Lira de la Rosa, PhD, psychologist at the Media Advisory Group at Hope for Depression Research Foundation.
According to Lira de la Rosa, some of these symptoms are:
- lack of interest in the things you liked
- low energy and motivation
- changes in sleep patterns
- difficulty concentrating
- difficulty starting and completing tasks
In reality, more than 90% of people with depression experience fatigue, a symptom that can also be mistaken for laziness.
In the experience of child psychologist Jennifer Weber, it is not uncommon for children and adolescents to be mistakenly labeled lazy before being diagnosed with depression. Weber is the director of behavioral health for PM Pediatrics Behavioral Health, a teletherapy and counseling program in New Hyde Park, New York.
Misconceptions about the signs of depression can especially happen if you have difficulty with:
- get out of bed or sofa
- performing household chores, such as cooking, cleaning, washing dishes
- showering and other personal hygiene habits
- complete academic work or work
- to exercise
These challenges can make you feel like you’re lazy, but there’s more than a personal choice.
According to Lira de la Rosa, some people can also “overwork themselves to the point of exhaustion and can suffer from depression as a result”.
Apparent laziness can also be a sign of self-will. This is a severe lack of motivation that makes it difficult or almost impossible to complete any type of task. Sometimes it is a sign of depression and other conditions such as schizophrenia.
In summary, specific symptoms of depression may seem like laziness to you, but they could be manifestations of a mood disorder you are living with. However, only a mental health professional can provide an accurate diagnosis.
Depression comes in many forms, each with its own diagnostic criteria and symptoms.
Even among these types, depression looks different to everyone, says Lira de la Rosa.
For example, some people with depression find it difficult to get out of bed. Others may be able to actively work and socialize, but have other symptoms like hopelessness and irritability.
Major depressive disorder
Major or clinical depression is the most common type of depression.
Symptoms usually last more than 2 weeks and can include:
- deep sadness
- decreased interest in activities
- deep exhaustion
- eat too little or too much
- sleep too little or too much
- broken self-esteem
- inability to concentrate or make decisions
- suicidal thoughts
Persistent depressive disorder
In this chronic form of depression, formerly called dysthymia, symptoms persist for more than 2 years and are usually not as severe as in major depression.
You may not even realize that you are living with depression because it is common for people with this condition to assume that it is just part of their personality.
You can believe you’ve been like this for as long as you can remember.
Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder are similar to those of major depression, but they are less intense and less severe. Yet the symptoms can have a huge impact on how you see yourself, others, and the world in general.
Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between symptoms of mental health disorders and a simple personality trait.
Only a healthcare professional has the tools to provide you with an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. That is why it is strongly advised to seek their help.
According to Weber, some signs that you may be dealing with more than just procrastination include:
- Significant change. For example, a once energetic and motivated person now finds it difficult to perform the simplest tasks.
- Responsibilities not assumed. An important sign is when a person is having difficulty taking care of themselves or their children, keeping their job, and doing daily chores, such as maintaining their home.
In the “Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences“, Laziness is defined as” a person’s reluctance to perform a chore or exercise despite the ability to do so. ” It involves will and intention.
Yet laziness is a more complex and nuanced concept than we realize. For starters, laziness can very well be a cultural construct and one that often comes with tints of stigma and prejudice.
From an early age, we are surrounded by messages that equate success and self-esteem with endless productivity.
So when we’re not productive, we judge ourselves or other lazy people, notes Lira de la Rosa.
In fact, he often works with people who are deeply exhausted because they are unable to keep up the pace and meet the demands of daily life – and fear that that means they are flawed.
Labeling yourself as lazy – or labeling someone else – can make you miss out on the underlying and critical reasons why you are unable to complete a task or navigate on a daily basis.
The use of the term “lazy” can mask a variety of plausible and important explanations that can be effectively resolved.
In short, assuming that you are lazy (or someone else is) prevents you from resolving the underlying reasons for your current condition.
In reality, laziness can be a lot. You may procrastinate or lack motivation because of:
One more thing: Lazy isn’t really a personality trait. It’s more of a behavior.
However, some people are naturally more focused, motivated and goal-oriented than others, Weber points out. âIt’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, especially if it doesn’t interfere with day-to-day functioning,â she says.
Yet some more motivated people may judge others with opposite characteristics negatively, Weber adds.
For some people, apparent laziness may actually be a sign of clinical depression, avolition, or other health problems.
Procrastination and lack of motivation can also be linked to stress or burnout – something many of us are feeling in the midst of the pandemic.
If you experience a significant lack of motivation or additional symptoms that are more akin to depression (or another condition), consider seeking professional help.
And if you think you’re just experiencing real laziness, âthink about what that means to you and the messages you’ve received about laziness,â says Lira de la Rosa.
It may be a good idea to remind yourself that you are a human being who needs to rest and recharge – and this goes beyond labeling yourself with labels such as “lazy.”
Instead, take care of yourself, says Lira de la Rosa.