We’ve all been there: it’s Saturday morning, and we have so much on our plate. We need to go grocery shopping, wash our hair, and do laundry. We get up, knowing we need to get moving to tackle the day ahead, and… we sit down on the couch and turn on Netflix.
No matter how productive we are on a regular basis, everyone has days when all they want to do is be a couch potato. And it’s okay! We all need a break from our responsibilities every now and then.
But you may be wondering: is this just “laziness,” pure and simple, or is it a sign of something deeper? Could your deep desire to do nothing but lie around all day, actually be a symptom of clinical depression?
In this article, we’re going to let you in on seven key differences between depression and laziness, and what to do if you suspect you may be depressed.
Key Differences Between Depression and Laziness
Here are seven differences between “just” laziness and depression, so you can start getting the treatment you need if it really is a mental illness.
It’s important to note that this list isn’t the ultimate authority on whether or not you’re depressed, and you shouldn’t use it as such. You might still be depressed even if the following things don’t apply to you, or something that isn’t depression could be behind your “laziness” — like stress.
It’s lasted for a long time
The diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder specify that you need to have experienced symptoms for at least two weeks to be considered clinically depressed. If you just have a “lazy day” once in a while, then it’s probably unlikely that you have depression. If you haven’t been able to get off the couch for weeks, though, then that may be a sign that something else is going on.
Your mood is low
Depression can look different for everyone, but most of the time, people who are depressed experience other symptoms on top of just feeling unmotivated. One of the most common symptoms of depression is a low mood. Of course, a low mood can manifest in different ways, but in general, is this something you’re facing? Do you often find yourself feeling sad, helpless, or worthless? Do you feel emotionally numb? If so, then your “laziness” might be a sign of depression.
It’s causing bigger problems in your life
Often, depression (as well as any other mental illness) causes serious problems in someone’s life. Their depression might cause them to call out sick and generally be unproductive, which leads to problems at work. Irritability can also be a symptom of depression, which can lead to problems in relationships. They may stop taking care of themselves in basic ways. If the fact that you’re feeling like a couch potato is seriously disrupting your life, then you could be suffering from depression.
You have physical symptoms
Some people feel depression in their bodies — we call these types of effects psychosomatic symptoms. Maybe you’ve started having headaches or stomachaches more frequently than usual. Maybe you’ve started eating more or less than usual, or you’ve experienced changes in your sex drive. If you’re feeling physical symptoms, and your healthcare provider has checked you for other conditions, then the culprit may be depression. Just feeling “lazy” doesn’t usually come with these symptoms.
You don’t enjoy your “lazy days”
Again, we all deserve to give ourselves a break once in a while; we aren’t machines, and it would be impossible for us to be productive every minute of every day. So take the break — you’ve earned it. When we’re “just feeling lazy,” though, we usually enjoy this time. We might feel nagging guilt that we aren’t being more productive, but it feels good to relax. If you’re depressed, it’s unlikely that these days feel pleasurable in any way. You might even desperately want to get more things done, but find that it’s impossible to do so.
You’re drinking or doing drugs
People with depression often self-medicate to ease the emotional pain. If, on your “lazy days,” you find yourself filling the time with drugs and alcohol, then that may be a sign that you’re actually depressed. Are you using substances to try to feel less depressed? To give yourself more energy and focus? Because without them, you feel numb or apathetic? These are all signs that your drug and alcohol use may be getting out-of-hand. Depression and substance use disorder don’t mix well, so if this describes your situation, then it’s important that you seek professional help right away.
People have expressed concern
Although no one knows you better than you know yourself, the dear and beloved people in your life might know you better than you give them credit for. Of course, all of us have worrywarts in our lives who have a tendency to make mountains out of molehills. But if the people in your life are expressing worry about your couch potato habits, it’s important to listen to what they have to say. They might be noticing something that you’ve missed.
If You’re Depressed, Take It Seriously
So many people who have depression find that it’s hard to get others - and sometimes, even themselves - to take the illness seriously. But when you’re battling depression, “You’re not depressed — you’re just lazy!” is the last thing you need to hear. The truth is that depression is absolutely not the same thing as laziness. Having depression isn’t a choice, and it says nothing about your character that you’re suffering from it.
Depression can present itself in insidious ways, so if you’re concerned about your mood, talk to a mental health provider. Just because you don’t meet any of the characteristics above doesn’t automatically mean you don’t have depression. And if you have depression, it’s unlikely to go away on its own.
The good news is that professional therapy can help. Depression is a treatable illness, and the sooner you get started on working through it, the sooner you’ll be free to live a productive and happy life.
Related Blog: "When Should I Seek Counseling for Depression?"