“I’m depressed”. We’ve all heard someone say it. We’ve probably said it ourselves.
Depression is a serious matter, so we can’t dismiss such comments out of hand. But how can we tell if we’re actually depressed or simply lacking motivation?
Both can share overlapping symptoms, but there are clear differences between the two and it’s important for all of us to be able to tell the difference.
Depression is a complicated mental health condition that extends beyond a simple lack of motivation. It involves an ongoing and overarching sense of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness. These feelings persist for extended periods of time. And, often, there is no obvious reason for someone to feel such ways.
A loss of interest in the activities that you once enjoyed is another telltale sign of depression. We tend to withdraw from social settings, increasing levels of loneliness.
Self-esteem can take a big hit when someone is depressed. We often times feel like we have little value and we tend to criticize ourselves both out loud and internally. Depression can also make it difficult to concentrate on anything or to make plans.
And depression can manifest itself physically, as well as mentally. Physical changes may include changes to appetitive, energy, and sleep patterns.
A lack of motivation, on the other hand, is more situational. Stress, boredom, burnout, and a lack of clear goals are often contributors.
Lack of motivation is oftentimes a temporary disinterest; when you just can’t seem to get motivated for a specific task, but the feeling doesn’t apply to other parts of your life. Something significant and looming on the horizon is a common cause for low motivation.
Someone dealing with a lack of motivation may find that their level of happiness is easily boosted by changing your environment or activities. This is not typically the case with depression.
And, also unlike depression, someone with a lack of motivation may not be experiencing a profound sadness or sense hopelessness.
To distinguish between depression and low motivation, consider the duration and persistence of your feelings. If your lack of motivation is situational and short-term, it’s likely not depression. If your low motivation is combined with persistent sadness, changes in sleep or eating, and feelings of hopelessness that endure for several weeks or more, it may be depression. Seeking professional help is encouraged.
Seasons of Strength provides effective mental health therapy to adults, couples, and families. We specialize in treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, and trauma with an emphasis on EMDR. We help clients across the Washington DC region.