Author: Dr. med. Marc Risch, Chief Physician and Specialist FMH for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Clinicum Alpinum, Gaflei – Lichtenstein [Translated from the original German language. Republished with permission.]
Some days, we can all find it difficult to get out of bed or lack the motivation to tackle the tasks of daily life. Feeling unmotivated, at times, is a part of life. But when is it a sign of a serious illness? And, when should a loss of drive be treated?
HOW “LOSS OF DRIVE” IS DEFINED
“Loss of drive” is characterized by a lack of energy and enthusiasm; those affected lose their initiative and have the feeling that they no longer want to do anything; they find it difficult to make the effort to tackle upcoming tasks and activities. Even after taking a break, they often don’t feel refreshed. After a night’s sleep, the may find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Fatigue, sleep problems, and difficulty concentrating can be symptoms. Even leisure activities and hobbies that were previously fun and perceived as meaningful are now considered a burden. It can also get to the point where personal hygiene and nutrition are neglected or social contacts are avoided. Tasks at work or at home are neglected.
IS BEING UNMOTIVATED A SYMPTOM OF DEPRESSION?
Lack of motivation is a central symptom of depression and burnout, but it can also be due to other causes. This means that there may also be another underlying disease or a temporary phenomenon responsible for these feelings. Signs of listlessness, such as depression, loss of appetite, and fatigue, also occur in depression and other mental illnesses. It is therefore important to seek professional medical support to find out whether an illness is present and what it is. A rapid diagnosis and treatment are crucial here.
WHY THE SUDDEN DECLINE IN INTEREST?
Physical and Mental Illnesses May Cause a Lack of Motivation
There are various causes and these may include:
- Stress or being overwhelmed
- Lack of sleep
- Low blood pressure
- Lack of fluid intake
- Deficiency symptoms (such as iron deficiency or vitamin D deficiency)
- Mental illnesses such as depression, burnout, or anxiety disorders
- Metabolic diseases (such as thyroid diseases)
- Eating disorders (reduced energy intake)
- Side effects of medication
Because of these different possible causes, it can be a lengthy process to find out what the lack of motivation is due to. However, it definitely should be clarified in order to find a solution quickly.
WHEN IS LACK OF MOTIVATION AN ILLNESS?
Everyone goes through phases where they feel unmotivated, and many people experience low moods and a lack of desire to do much of anything, especially when the seasons change from warm to cold in autumn and winter. However, it can also indicate an illness and lead to a serious drop in performance if it lasts for several weeks, disrupting everyday life and causing one to avoid things and activities that would otherwise bring joy. The following questions can help you decide whether you should get to the bottom of your lack of motivation with the help of medical or psychological support:
- Is the lack of motivation so stressful that your everyday life suffers?
- Is it a reaction to the current excessive demands at work or in everyday life?
- Does it occur over a long period of several weeks or always on certain days or at certain times?
- Are there other accompanying impairments such as insomnia, loss of appetite, problems concentrating, or loss of self-esteem?
FIND HELP FOR LOSS OF DRIVE
Especially if the symptoms are temporary or mild, you can first make sure that you get enough sleep (and always go to sleep at about the same time), get enough daylight and fresh air, and eat healthily. As with depression, if you are feeling listless, it can help to talk to friends and family about it to get support.
If the symptoms are more severe and persist over a longer period of time, you should consider that this lack of motivation may be an illness and seek professional help from your family doctor or a psychotherapist to find out what is behind the symptom. If stress and psychological strain contribute to a sense of listlessness, there are techniques available to learn for stress reduction and relaxation. By employing these techniques, one can significantly enhance their overall well-being and state.