7 Signs You’re Not Lazy But Depressed

Do you know what it’s like to have depression? Have you or anyone you know ever experienced being depressed? According to the American Psychological Association (2013), some of the most common warning signs of depression include frequently feeling tired, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, and emotional detachment.

But when we think back on these clinical symptoms and imagine someone who, let’s say, can’t focus on their tasks, have low energy, and spends most of their time alone and at home, it can be easy to mistake it for a simple bout of laziness. So where do we draw the line? How do we tell the difference between feeling lazy and being depressed?

Well, here are 7 psychology-backed signs to help you figure out if what you’re really experiencing is just laziness, or if it might already be something much more serious:

1. You used to be highly self-motivated.

First and foremost, the most important way we can distinguish laziness from depression is to look at how the person acts now and compare it to how they used to be. And because laziness is a relatively stable character trait, it should stand to reason then that someone who’s just lazy has probably always been this way; whereas someone who used to be highly self-motivated and high achieving but suddenly isn’t anymore might actually be struggling with depression, not laziness. Which brings us to our next point…

2. You’ve lost interest in everything in your life.

Similar to the last point, if you feel that you’ve lost not only your motivation but also your interest to do just about anything — even the things you used to love the most and be so passionate about — then it might not be laziness you’re struggling with, but depression. In fact, a “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in activities” is one of the hallmarks of a depressive episode (APA, 2013). This is especially true if your “laziness” has already generalized not only towards the things you usually don’t want to do, like chores or homework, but even the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy so much.

3. You feel like you can’t do anything anymore.

Aside from losing all your usual motivation, interest, and desire to succeed, you just generally don’t feel like you can do anything anymore. You feel like your “laziness” is getting out of hand because it’s getting in the way of your work, studies, and/or relationships. But in truth, if you are already struggling to function mentally, emotionally, physically, or socially, you may already be dealing with something much more serious than laziness (Hammen, 2005).

sitting woman

4. You don’t know why you feel the way you do.

Another clear sign that there may be more to your “laziness” than most people think is if it is accompanied by a lot of negative feelings you just can’t seem to make sense of. It coule be loneliness, sadness, hopelessness, or even anger. The bottom line is, you not only feel lazy but you just feel bad in general, and you don’t even know why. There’s no obvious culprit behind you feeling this way, and that’s what makes it all the more troublesome. But people with depression will often experience such feelings (Carter & Garberm 2011).

5. You struggle with other unexplained symptoms.

Aside from the emotional toll your so-called “laziness” seems to take on you, you’ve also noticed some other unexplained physiological symptoms, too. For example, maybe you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, or find yourself sleeping too much. Maybe you’ve lost your appetite or started overeating out of the blue. Other common examples include: sudden heart palpitations/racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and chronic pain and fatigue, even when doing nothing (Lépine & Briley, 2011). 

6. You don’t know why you suddenly became “lazy.”

A lot of the time, people tend to become lazy when they feel overwhelmed or pressured to succeed. They may also procrastinate because of a lack of positive recognition from others, or a low sense of self-esteem, discipline, and self-control. But if none of these things seem to describe you and you just feel like you suddenly became “lazy” for no apparent reason, it might actually be depression you’re experiencing. And psychologists as of present are still struggling to figure out why some people become depressed. But the bottom line is, if you feel that nothing has triggered your sudden bout of unexplained laziness, this might be the reason why (Carter & Garber, 2011). 

7. You’re trying your best not to be “lazy.”

Last but certainly not the least, if you’ve made every effort you can to try and “snap yourself out of your own laziness” but just can’t seem to, then it might be because it’s not actually laziness you’re experiencing, but depression. See, unlike depression, laziness is easily remedied; there are a lot of “productivity hacks” you can apply to help get you out of your funk. But depression? Depression is a whole other story. If left undiagnosed and untreated, it can worsen over time and increase the likelihood of risk behaviors such as substance abuse, alcohol addiction, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. Fortunately, the National Health Institute (2020) also reports that more than 80% of people who seek professional help for it do indeed recover and get better.

So if you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here, if you are experiencing feelings of depression and struggling with your mental health, please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional today and seek help. Because the earlier depression is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat.


  • American Psychological Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th Edition. APA Publishing; Washington, DC.
  • Carter, J. S., & Garber, J. (2011). Predictors of the First Onset of A Major Depressive Episode: Stress and Negative Cognitions. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 120(4), 779-796.
  • Hammen, C. (2005). Stress and depression. Annu. Rev. Clin. Psychol., 1, 293-319.
  • Lépine, J. P., & Briley, M. (2011). The increasing burden of depression. Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, 7(Suppl 1), 3.
  • National Institutes of Health (US). Office of Medical Applications of Research. (2020). Diagnosis and treatment of depression in late life (Vol. 9, No. 3). US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, Office of Medical Applications of Research.

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