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Am I Depressed or Lazy? 10 Ways to Know the Difference - Happier Human

Am I Depressed or Lazy? 10 Ways to Know the Difference

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We all have our “couch potato” moments.

I’m talking about those days when all you want to do is veg out in front of the TV or spend hours mindlessly scrolling through social media.

Sometimes, we do it despite knowing there’s a list of tasks that need to be completed by the end of the day. Other times, we choose to do nothing because there’s nothing to do.

But when this general state of idleness lasts for days (even weeks) on end, you start asking yourself: Am I depressed or lazy?

In general, we tend to attribute negative connotations to laziness. Whenever we see or hear about someone idling or wasting time on trivial activities, we immediately assume that he/she is a lazy slob with no goals and no future.

But the attitude that we see and label as ‘laziness’ may be the consequence of something much more painful and complex.

“You’re Not Depressed, You’re Just Lazy”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard clients with clinical depression complaining about people calling them lazy, unmotivated, and other words that I can’t reproduce here.   

So, I want to take this opportunity to shed some light on why laziness isn’t always the result of carelessness and indifference.

Given that people struggling with depression struggle with lack of motivation, feelings of helplessness, and an overall grim perspective on life, they often spend most of the day in ‘idle mode.’

There are times when depression is so crushing that you barely have the energy to get out of bed and make yourself something to eat.

And when you feel like the entire world is falling apart, all you want to do is curl up under the blanket and avoid anything that might require some effort on your part.

From the outside, this attitude may look like laziness, but people with depression are paralyzed by hopelessness and emotional pain on the inside.

Long story short, before you rush to label someone as ‘lazy’, make sure you find out their story. You might be surprised to discover there’s more than just carelessness behind their apparent lack of purpose and direction.   

Am I Depressed or Lazy?

Sometimes, it’s hard to draw a clear line between depression and laziness.

It’s even harder to compare them, given that depression encompasses a whole range of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral reactions. At the same time, laziness is just an attitude that people may display for various reasons.

In my opinion, if you’re struggling with this dilemma, the first (and best) thing you can do is take a closer look at yourself.

Whenever you feel stuck and confused, the only way to gain clarity is through self-reflection.

  • How does laziness affect your personal and professional life?
  • How many hours a day do you spend doing nothing?
  • Has anyone (friend, spouse, family member) ever complained that you’re too lazy?
  • Does laziness make you neglect essential household chores like taking out the trash, shopping for groceries, or paying utility bills?
  • Is laziness a small pleasure you give yourself after a productive day or a way to avoid uncomfortable emotions?
  • How would your life be different if you were less lazy?

To determine whether laziness is a problem or not, you need to start by looking at how this attitude impacts your day-to-day life.  

When Laziness Paves the Way for Depression

If we want to understand how laziness can pave the way for depression, we need to look at this condition from a slightly different angle.

When we think about depression, we often imagine a sad, pessimistic individual who doesn’t find joy in anything and holds a grim perspective on life.

But that’s not always the case.

Sometimes, depression develops in a relatively atypical manner making it difficult to spot using traditional diagnostic criteria.

Experts call it ‘masked depression’ because it hides behind somatic symptoms that can easily be mistaken for medical conditions. [1]

For instance, you may experience back pain, headache, and tension of the gluteal muscles, which create an overall sense of physical pressure and exhaustion.

can you have a little bit of depression | why am I so lazy all the time | am i depressed or lazy
Depression develops in a relatively atypical manner making it difficult to spot using traditional diagnostic criteria.

As a result, you are more likely to spend the day doing the bare minimum and waiting for the pain to go away so that you can be more productive.

And the more you give in to this feeling and postpone your tasks for the sake of comfort, the more you contribute to your sense of helplessness.

A bad day turns into a bad week which turns into a bad month, and without realizing it, you drift into a state of comfortable idleness.

But the most painful part is that, even if you realize there’s something much ‘darker’ behind your apparent lack of motivation and energy, it will take a considerable amount of effort to recover (or discover) your happy and productive self.

And I’m not saying this to demoralize you, but to help you understand what you’re up against, set realistic expectations, and adopt a baby-steps approach.

10 Telltale Signs of Depression

From a cognitive perspective, depression fuels a negative outlook on things that overshadow any positive experience that life may surprise you with.

Furthermore, the negative thoughts and irrational interpretations associated with this condition are accompanied by sadness, irritability, emptiness, frustration, hopelessness, anxiety, indecision, guilt, and loss of self-confidence.

When you hold on to this perspective, you begin to lose all hope for a better future.

And if you think the future no longer presents opportunities, why bother trying?

But let’s break these symptoms down and better understand how depression interferes with your personal and professional life.

1. You’re in pain.

Not just emotional pain, but physical pain as well.

As I mentioned earlier, depression can take on atypical forms, which often manifest at the somatic level.

From headaches and nausea to back pain and even digestive problems, prolonged physical discomfort that isn’t caused by a medical condition could indicate the presence of depression.

2. You’re angry and bitter.

If the slightest unfortunate event brings you on the brink of an angry outburst, or if being gloomy and bitter has become your everyday mood, chances are you may be struggling with depression.

Experts speculate that around 50% of all people dealing with depression feel angry, bitter, and grumpy most of the day.

3. Your clothes no longer fit.

When you’re dealing with depression, chances are you might find comfort in food.

Although emotional eating can increase your serotonin, which generates a brief sense of satisfaction, it will translate into extra pounds, accompanied by feelings of shame and guilt over time.

There are also cases when people with depression lose weight because of decreased appetite.

4. Your drinking/smoking has gotten out of control.

While recreational drinking and smoking are perfectly normal and harmless, when you reach the point where one glass of wine in the evening doesn’t quite feel enough, chances are you might be dealing with more than just a bad day.

Just like emotional eating, alcohol and substance abuse can have a temporary soothing effect, keeping you disconnected from the painful aspects of your life.  

5. You feel nothing.

Whether it’s going to work, hitting the gym, meeting with someone, or savoring a delicious breakfast, each of us has a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

But when these activities fail to bring you any joy or satisfaction, motivation goes down the drain, and the bed becomes your only source of peace and comfort.  

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When the things that used to bring smiles or tears leave you indifferent, and you adopt a zombie-like behavior that makes you look cold and distant, chances are you may be dealing with depression.

In my experience, this is probably the worst symptom that can accompany depressive episodes. I would honestly choose to feel pain, frustration, or disappointment rather than ‘nothingness.’  

When the things that used to bring smiles or tears leave you indifferent, and you adopt a zombie-like behavior that makes you look cold and distant, chances are you may be dealing with depression.  

6. You’re daydreaming most of the time.

Have you ever wondered how many hours a day you spend fantasizing about a better, happier life? (Instead of doing something about it)

Although letting your imagination run free is perfectly normal, spending too much time disconnected from reality can be a sign of depression or trauma.

Experts call it ‘maladaptive daydreaming,’ the tendency to escape reality and construct fantasies that generate a momentary sense of satisfaction.   

7. You can’t take a break from social media.

Like daydreaming, social media offers an alternative reality where you don’t have to deal with emotional pain and work through your issues.

Although scrolling through social media gives you a much-needed sense of relief and satisfaction, the long-term effects can be devastating. Current evidence suggests social media use is associated with increased depression. [2]

The more time you spend looking at other people’s picture-perfect lives, the worse you will feel about yourself.

8. You take forever to decide.

Once again, your lack of motivation and the fact that you no longer find joy in anything keeps you in a state of idleness where even the most minor decisions feel like too much.

Or it could be because you’ve lost confidence and no longer feel capable of taking responsibility for the choices you make.

The moment you stop making decisions is when your life ‘freezes’ into a state where absolutely nothing happens, neither good nor bad.  

9. You no longer care about your looks.

And why should you!?

It’s not like you’re going somewhere or meeting someone.

Eventually, you get to a point where you’re too ashamed of yourself even to try to make some changes and start taking care of yourself.

But the saddest part is that people are often too quick to judge you and fail to understand that your lack of interest is not a sign of laziness but a consequence of depression.

10. Your friends and family are worried about you.

In today’s world, experts often talk about ‘high functioning depression.’

It’s the kind of depression that’s hard to spot because of all the distractions (social media, shopping, workaholism, emotional eating, substance use, etc.) that you surround yourselves with to make it seem like you’re ok.

When your friends, colleagues, or family members are beginning to feel worried about you, perhaps it’s time to be honest with yourself and consider the possibility that you may be dealing with something serious.

4 Habits to Help You Manage Depression

1. Stay in touch with your emotions (even if it hurts).

What I’m suggesting here is quite uncomfortable and will take some serious effort on your part.

It’s never easy to stay in touch with painful emotions such as hopelessness, fear, shame, guilt, or self-loathing.

But we do it because it’s the only way to build emotional resilience and navigate depressive episodes without losing our purpose and goals.

These emotions exist (and hurt) for a reason. It’s your mind’s way of letting you know that something deep within yourself needs your immediate attention.

In my experience, three practices can help you stay in touch with your emotions:

Although they might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, these practices allow you to process emotions healthily and consciously.

2. Discover your distractions and avoidance behaviors.

We live in a world where distractions are part of our day-to-day life.

From online shopping and social media to TV shows, comfort eating, and video games, we’re practically surrounded by all sorts of relaxing activities that keep our attention focused on anything but ourselves.

And when this wide variety of activities is just one click away, it’s no wonder we resort to distractions so quickly.

They’re highly accessible and provide an immediate soothing effect – the perfect quick fix for emotional discomfort.

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Think about some of your daily routines and the activities that you resort to whenever you’re dealing with unpleasant emotions.

But as we discussed throughout this article, the long-term effects can be disastrous.

Just because you distract yourself from unpleasant emotions doesn’t mean they will go away. You’re just postponing your pain and suffering.

For starters, I encourage you to think about your daily routines and the activities that you resort to whenever you’re dealing with unpleasant emotions.

There’s no need to eliminate them right now.

Focus on building healthier habits before getting rid of distractions and avoidance behaviors.  

3. Do it because you need to, not because you feel like doing it.

One of the main problems with depression is that it ‘kills’ your desire to get things done, even things that only require a few minutes of your time, like taking out the trash or putting your dirty clothes in the laundry machine.

One of the most common replies I get from people dealing with depression is: “I want to do something; it’s just that I don’t feel like doing anything.

If we think about it, we all tend to use this excuse whenever we stumble into a difficult or unpleasant task that requires sustained effort.

But unlike the rest of us, people with depression have a hard time managing their emotions and consequently the amount of motivation necessary to carry out simple tasks.

I think it’s vital to occasionally remind yourself that you don’t always need to be in the right mood to do something, especially when it comes to necessary tasks and activities.

Sometimes, you must start by putting in the effort despite your lack of motivation and desire.

If you wait for ‘ the perfect mood’ to do stuff, there’s a big chance you’ll end up feeling disappointed and hopeless.  

4. Focus on micro-habits.

Given that depression drains your energy to the point of exhaustion, it’s no wonder you find it almost impossible to stick to that 30-minutes-a-day exercise routine, followed by a cold shower and a brief meditation exercise.

Perhaps you’ve bitten more than you can chew, and the more pressure you put on yourself, the harder it’s going to get.

Let’s set the bar a little lower so that you can follow through with your habits without tiring yourself and giving up after a few failed attempts.

Start with one habit and slowly work your way up to two, three, and so on. But do it slooooowly. No need to rush things, tier yourself out, give up, and feel sorry for yourself.

A healthy and achievable micro-habit is something that:

  • You do exclusively for yourself
  • Doesn’t require much physical or mental effort.
  • Takes only 5-to-10 minutes of your time.

Some examples of micro-habits are skincare routines, brief mindfulness exercises, praying, morning stretches, etc.

When it comes to overcoming depression, less is more. 

Final Thoughts on Laziness and Depression

Whether it’s laziness, depression, or a bit of both, one thing’s for sure – change must come from the inside out.

Start by looking deep within yourself and discovering why you lack the motivation to keep up with daily tasks, then make small steps towards a more active and productive lifestyle.

Whether you’re dealing with depression or laziness (or both), I suggest you focus on:

  • Staying in touch with your emotions, especially the ones that hurt.
  • Identifying and gradually eliminating your distractions and avoidance behaviors.
  • Building micro-habits that help you cultivate a healthier and happier life.

Alexander Draghici is a licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT practitioner, and content writer for various mental health websites. His work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common emotional problems – anxiety and depression.

References

[1] P. Shetty, A. Mane, S. Fulmali and G. Uchit, “Understanding masked depression: A Clinical scenario,” Indian Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 60, no. 1, p. 97–102, 2018.

[2] L. y. Lin, J. E. Sidani, A. Shensa, A. Radovic, E. Miller, J. B. Colditz, B. L. Hoffman, L. M. Giles and B. A. Primack, “ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS,” Depression and Anxiety, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 323-331, 2016.