In this brief guide, we are going to discuss the differences between depression and laziness, and when to seek professional help.
Laziness vs Depression: Main differences
Laziness refers to procrastinating important activities and not wanting to do anything in favor of being comfortable or doing activities that require the minimum effort and are enjoyable.
Depression is a dysfunctional mental health issue characterised by Low mood, low energy, easy tiredness and changes in sleep or appetite.
The two states are quite different but they can cause each other if either is prolonged, that is laziness can cause depression and vice versa.
A common symptom of depression is low energy and not wanting to do anything, which can look like laziness. It is also possible that when someone is lying on their couch for too long they might eventually start feeling sad or worried about the work that is piling up.
Statistical data shows that depression is often confused for laziness by the older generation specially, who maintain that the younger workforce or students are merely avoiding responsibility when they are in fact sad and questioning their self-worth.
An individual suffering from Depression frequently experiences what is termed Anhedonia, which is a lack of pleasure from activities that were once a source of great joy to the individual.
Coupled with that is Anergia, which is a general lack of energy despite not having strained the body or mind at all. These two symptoms make up 3 main characteristics of depression, with the third one being Affect, which covers the low mood that everyone associates with depression.
These 3 symptoms can look like laziness, and one may feel like they’re just procrastinating or avoiding school or homework, but it may actually be a mental health problem.
While these 3 symptom clusters don’t specify the degree of disorder or the intensity, they do signify that the person is not merely weak or lazy, but in fact, suffering from a problem.
Symptoms of depression
- Getting tired easily
- Reduced experience of pleasure
- Low Mood
- Appetite loss
- Poor Sleep
- Reduced Concentration
- Feelings of low self-worth
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced socialization
What separates laziness from depression?
One might ask how one might differentiate between laziness and depression then if Anergia is such a big signifier of Depression. In some people-particularly in the younger generation-Depression in the initial phases can actually feel like laziness.
One may not want to get out of bed, not feel like tidying up the house or finishing homework that is fast approaching its deadline, or bother to eat at all. On the surface, this may seem like half the population in a dorm, but that is exactly why knowledge of mental health is extremely important.
A lazy person will likely be lazy in certain domains, or maybe about certain activities. Ask a lazy person to do something they enjoy tremendously, and they will experience pleasure. Assume, for instance, that a college student is procrastinating their homework for days, and their room looks like a tornado hit it, sounds like a “lazy” person, doesn’t it? But at the same time, this person may still be hanging out with their girlfriend, going out with friends, maybe getting food delivered, and so on. That is where the distinction is made.
For most individuals Depression manifests with lack of energy, tendency to get tired easily, lack or desire and pleasure, and most of all, somatic/bodily changes. Somatic changes in someone suffering from depression may range from Sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, random aches and pains in the body without any reason, and headaches that feel like pressure in the head or with pains moving around.
Headaches people usually get due to depression tend to be generalized and common to various parts of the head, unlike, for instance, Migraine, which has a very specific manifestation where only half the head pains intensely. Patients also often complain of experiencing a cloudy, hazy feeling in the head. While these are not specific to depression, they do provide further clarification when complaints of low energy and mood are made.
Changes in Sleep and Appetite
People suffering from Depression often complain that they have difficulty sleeping or that their appetite is greatly reduced. These complaints are definitely more common than those of sleeping too much or eating too much, but those exist as well. How does one know their sleeping patterns are abnormal, then? Firstly, difficulty sleeping can be categorized across 3 main headings:
- Trouble Falling Asleep: This very simply refers to inability to fall asleep. This issue is what most people mean when they say they have “Insomnia” or that they have sleep issues. Everyone experiences this at some point or another, maybe during periods of great stress or even when someone has something amazing happen to them. Problems with falling asleep arise out of an inability to shut down the brain and put yourself in a position to relax.
- Trouble Maintaining sleep/Frequent Awakening: This is what most people are talking about when they say that they are light sleepers or that they wake up many times during the night. Some people wake up multiple times in the night, which obviously leads to incomplete REM cycles, and therefore, lack of rest and replenishment of energy.
- Inadequate Sleep: This is a common issue for many people. Inadequate sleep primarily refers to not feeling energized or relaxed even after getting 7-8 hours of sleep. This can be because of various reasons like Sleep Apnea, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD: a disorder of the joints in the lower jaw), Nightmares, and bad sleeping conditions like uncomfortable bedding.
Out of the three main issues mentioned above, Trouble falling asleep and Inadequate sleep are the common problems faced in Depression. The inability to fall asleep despite trying hard is a hallmark feature of depression, whereas laziness just causes a general feeling of haziness or sleepiness all the time, but sleep may still feel restful.
Due to the presence of intrusive negative thoughts people suffering from depression often find it difficult to fall asleep. When they do fall asleep, the thoughts are still there in the person’s subconscious and they find it hard to achieve restful sleep. This is why Inadequate sleep is yet another feature that patients often report in depression.
Coupled with sleep issues are appetite markers. As mentioned in the analogy at the beginning, many sufferers note that food seems to lose all taste and pleasure. Imagine being made to eat food lacking in any flavor or salt or the things that make it joyful and appetizing; that seems to be what most people complain of.
This is because the neurotransmitters that cause a depressed state are directly related to the feelings of satiation, pleasure, and craving or hunger, and when there is a fall in their levels it affects appetite adversely. With Laziness there are no such problems; lazy people continue their normal eating rhythms without issue.
Negative thoughts in Depression vs Lazy thoughts
It is important to understand these, for anyone trying to understand this Mood disorder, and more importantly for anyone trying to differentiate between Depression vs Laziness. Aaron Beck, a leading researcher in the field of Depression and the proponent of Cognitive-behavior Therapy, has defined a Negative Triad of Depression. This essentially refers to 3 main types of thoughts that an individual suffering from depression experiences.
These are Hopelessness, Worthlessness, and Helplessness. None of this is present in a lazy person. Negative thoughts experienced in depression are miles away from just feeling bad about being lazy.
Negative Triad of Depression
Hopelessness refers to thoughts about the future; the individual may feel like they won’t be able to accomplish anything in their life, that their future is bleak, they may even feel some worry about the future or their prospects (however one should also consider that worry may also be one of the symptoms of anxiety, and it should be left to a professional to make the distinction).
Hopelessness often causes individuals to stop trying, or give up sooner than they normally would, which may appear to be laziness. Statements like “what is even the point of doing so” or “why bother” can be heard from someone that has no hopes regarding their future, and a lazy person would likely say something more like “don’t feel like doing it now”.
Worthlessness is one of the most primary, key aspects of Depression. It refers to the negative view of self, the problem from which most other symptoms are theorized to arise. A person suffering from depression may feel they are not worthy of being happy or accomplished, or of receiving praise and love from family or friends. It often culminates into statements such as “I don’t deserve this” or “Why would I ever receive such love or honor”. Again, laziness does not comprise of worthlessness. The individual may feel slightly bad sometimes for being lazy but they won’t question their entire self-worth due to it.
The third factor is Helplessness. This refers to the person’s attitudes towards their environment in general.
The sufferer may feel like they are incapable of doing anything, and that they are under pressure from the environment around them, and that they cannot meet the demands of the day to day life.
This is probably most easily confused with laziness. A person not doing things because of a crippling fear of failure or lack of faith in their own ability and one not doing it because they don’t feel like it, may both look like lazy people, but only one of them has a mental health issue.
Can laziness cause depression?
Most of us only recognize and behave according to the emotion that a thought elicits, and this pattern is most seen in Depression.
Sometimes, feeling bad about being lazy or suffering from the consequences of laziness like getting bad grades, can cause an individual to start getting Negative thoughts.
The Negative Automatic thoughts cause feelings of guilt, sadness and shame, and these slowly become the prevalent mood state in the individual.
It cannot be said that Laziness causes depression, as such, but it can certainly create conditions for bad mood and adversities in one’s life. Laziness also causes more laziness, in the sense as lying around on the couch for longer periods will just make someone feel lazier in the long run.
This takes the person away from accomplishing goals and eventually suffering the consequences.
Depression helplines and Websites
CALM stands for Campaign Against Living Miserably, and it is for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Mental Health Foundation: For information regarding Mental health issues as well as learning disabilities
Mind: For anyone suffering from any mental health troubles.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm)
Rethink Mental Illness: helping people who are living with Mental Illness
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 4 pm)
Samaritans: A group that provides helpful, confidential support to those feeling sad and dejected.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
In this brief guide discussed the differences between depression and laziness, and when to seek professional help, as well as some symptoms of depression.
If you have any questions or comments please let us know.
FAQ: Laziness vs Depression
How do I fight laziness
To fight laziness experts suggest intentionally getting out of a rut, doing things you enjoy, and easing into the thing you are procrastinating. Laziness can cause many problems if it persists so it’s important to get out of it soon.
What causes laziness
There’s no one reason why people are lazy. Especially in the current times of coronavirus, disruption of rhythm has caused many people to stop functioning as they used to, causing more people to be lazy. Some people may avoid doing things due to fear of failure and may start feeling lazy due to that as well.
Is laziness a mental disorder
No, laziness is not a mental disorder on its own, however it can trigger episodes of mild depression or anxiety if it persists for too long. It can also cause problems in one’s life if they procrastinate important things too much, so one should always try to fight laziness as much as they can.
What is the most reliable symptom of depression
The most reliable symptom of depression is low mood, coupled with negative views of self and others, and a tendency to avoid things one used to do before. Lack of energy in the absence of effort as well as sleep and appetite changes can also be considered.
Am I lazy or depressed
To answer if one is lazy or depressed, one needs to assess what else they feel apart from lazy. Are you eating right? Are you enjoying some things? Do you feel you don’t matter? Are you feeling like you don’t deserve happiness? These are some common thoughts an individual suffering from depression might have. Other than that, if you feel like you or someone you know may be depressed, please seek necessary professional help.
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What we recommend for depression
If you are suffering from depression then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.