Low Motivation, Am I Depressed?

weak muscles

After a fun and leisurely weekend, Sunday night seems to creep up on us without warning.  We begrudgingly lay out our work clothes, prepare lunch for the kids, and set the alarm to go off in the wee hours of the morning.  It can sometimes be difficult to prepare for another work week, mentally adjusting ourselves from relaxed, weekend mode.  Unfortunately, it is rare where we get an extended weekend and thus, we must somehow muster up the motivation to face another Monday.  But, what happens when you simply cannot rally up the motivation to do anything.  Does lack of motivation automatically signify depression?

Motivation can be defined as the desire or enthusiasm to work towards a goal.  Motivation can be intrinsic, or coming from within.  For example, a person may work exceptionally hard because they strive for perfection, or are driven internally to do well.  Motivation can also be fueled by external rewards and forces.  A student may be motivated to earn money for good grades or a salesman may work extra hard for their commission.

A lack of motivation is a classic symptom of depression.  A person who is depressed lacks desire, ambition, or gusto to take action towards an objective.  Taking initiative and getting motivated seems like an overwhelming, insurmountable task when one has trouble even getting out of bed in the morning.  Fatigue, lack of energy, and feelings of worthlessness can make motivation seem even more elusive.  When one lacks motivation, it can often propel an individual into a deeper depression.

If you have no motivation to do anything, there is a chance that you could be depressed.  However, a lack of motivation does not necessarily constitute a depression diagnosis.  An individual may lack motivation because they are not being stimulated or challenged.  A student who is bored in school may lack the motivation to complete their schoolwork, homework, or studying because it is tedious and uninteresting.  A person who has been in the same job for an extensive period of time may lose motivation because work is no longer stimulating or thought-provoking.  A person in a stagnant relationship may lack motivation to keep working at the relationship, as they can no longer foresee a future with that person.

Thus, a lack of motivation can signal the need for some type of life change.  Taking steps towards a resolution may infuse a person with more motivation and initiative.  A student may be presented with more challenging work, an employee may switch careers, or a person may seek a new and exciting relationship, thus solving their difficulties with motivation.

If you are lacking motivation in all areas of your life, if it is impacting daily functioning, and if it is not linked with the need for life change, depression could be a potential factor.  Psychotherapy and psychotropic medication can be effective treatments to help a person to reduce depressive symptoms, including lack of motivation.  Treatment can assist individuals to feel more hopeful, energetic, and goal oriented, thus alleviating motivational difficulties.

An occasional lack of motivation does not necessarily mean that a person is suffering from depression.  Most people have difficulty transitioning from a fun weekend back into a work or school week that is laden with responsibilities.  If a person lacks motivation because of a specific life situation, it could warrant the need for some life changes.  However, if a person’s lack of motivation is not related to a specific life situation and if it permeates into all areas of their life, depression may very well be the potential cause.

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Tracy is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is a clinical supervisor for the Community YMCA, Counseling & Social Services branch. Tracy has over 12 years of experience working in many settings including partial care hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs, community agencies, group practice, and school-based programs. Tracy works with clients of all ages, but especially enjoys working with the adolescents. Tracy  facilitates groups using art therapy, sand play and psychodrama.
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