Am I Depressed or Lazy? How To Tell The Difference

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We’ve all had those days of lazing around on the couch, munching out, and not doing anything at all.

But what happens if that feeling persists and drags on day after day? And more so, what happens if that feeling is combined with feelings of hopelessness and emotional pain?

Depression and laziness can appear similar from the outside. However, one is potentially an escape from the business of life, an attitude or lack of motivation, while the other is a psychological condition that takes over without the person’s consent.

So while being depressed and being lazy might sometimes look the same, they simply aren’t, and it’s essential to understand how to tell the difference.

What is depression?

Depression is a severe mental illness. It isn’t an intentional act or deliberate choice but rather a psychological condition. Depression creates a different feeling than just sadness. It’s an empty, numb, and paralyzing hopelessness that nothing can fix. The psychological condition affects how a person thinks, acts, and feels. In addition, depression can significantly hinder a person’s ability to live life and find motivation.

So, what does this look like?

A person struggling with depression might sleep a lot, struggle to complete self-care tasks such as showering, and have an empty refrigerator.

Depression is something that affects a person’s entire life. It’s not a choice or even a mood. It’s not as simple as having a “depression day” such as you can with having a “lazy day.” And while depression might look like laziness, I hope this article can show you how it’s different.

Risk factors for depression.

Depression can affect anyone. But, some risk factors are worth noting. The list is not conclusive and is in no particular order.

1. Genetics

If you’re wondering if you’re depressed or lazy, consider looking at other family members. Does anyone in the family have depression? This is not to say that if someone’s family member does have depression, they will have it too. It’s one risk factor among many others. Knowing your family’s health history is beneficial in many ways and understanding the risk of depression is just one of them.

Suppose you have a strong genetic history of depression. In that case, you might consider how you’re feeling mentally, what your current life is like, your current happiness and motivation levels, and check in with a medical professional.

On the contrary, laziness is not tied to genetics. If you come from a family of lazy and unmotivated people, that doesn’t mean that you will be. Genetics does not indicate laziness, whereas it can be an indicator of depression.

2. Environmental

A person’s environment is very important and impacts mental health. Everything that we see, hear, smell, and feel can affect, hinder, or alter our mood. A few environmental factors can increase a person’s risk of developing depression. On the flip side, a person’s environment likely won’t be a cause of laziness. Laziness is more a choice, decision, or mood and not a condition.

Environmental factors such as those that follow can increase the risk of developing depression.

  • Chemical pollutants
  • Poverty
  • Crime
  • Racism
  • Unsafe home life

Laziness and being lazy are not affected by these variables. It’s more a choice. (And, by no means a wrong choice. Being lazy, taking time off, unwinding, and turning off, are all positives, and unfortunately, the word lazy has a negative vibe attached to it. I am not degrading being lazy. On the contrary, I’m a big fan, personally. I’m sharing how environmental factors can impact psychological health and lead to a risk of depression, whereas being lazy is more a choice/decision.)

3. Personality

Personality is a significant factor in both a diagnosis of depression and being lazy. If a person struggles with low self-esteem and self-worth, they’re at a greater risk of developing depression. However, if a person is generally unmotivated, only completes tasks they want to do, and lives like a slob, they might be lazy and not depressed.

It’s worth noting again that depression isn’t a choice. It’s a psychological condition that can significantly affect a person’s life. Depression can make it difficult for a person to work, go out, and perform daily tasks. This isn’t the same as being lazy.

If you’re wondering if you’re depressed or lazy, I challenge you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I always feel lazy, or is there a certain event that triggers it? (E.g. washing the dishes, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, etc.)
  • Do I feel unmotivated and hopeless or just lack energy and want to chill?
  • How often do I feel like this?
  • Do I skip events that I used to enjoy?

4. Biochemistry

The biochemistry of the brain is an important factor in depression. A person can have either too much or too few neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers and play a huge role in mood regulation. When there isn’t a proper balance, it can cause depression.

Each type of neurotransmitter carries a different message and plays a different role in the overall mental health of a person, so when there is an imbalance, it can cause a lot of issues.

Because depression is such a multifaceted condition, the balance in each brain is different, so treatment is unique and personalized. It’s common that people have to try many different medications to balance the biochemistry in their brain.

This isn’t something a person can control, whereas being lazy isn’t related to chemical imbalances but rather a lack of motivation, a need to slow down, and a choice and consensual option.

Symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression can also resemble other medical conditions, so it’s important to ask questions and advocate for yourself at the doctor to ensure you’re receiving the correct diagnosis.

Symptoms of depression can present differently, and all cases of depression are severe and require care. You’ll see quickly here that the symptoms of depression are very different from a case of good ol’ fashioned laziness.

If you consider these symptoms, it’s easy to see how depression differs from laziness. Depression is a psychological illness caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. So how depression presents itself and what it looks like for a person can be different, but the general idea among the symptoms remains the same.

Depression brings an unexplained dark, heavy feeling. Daily life can become tough, and many people find it difficult to work or even get out of bed. This isn’t to be confused with laziness because laziness is consensual, and depression isn’t. Laziness, though it might be from being unmotivated, is not something that would show up on blood work or any medical test.

If you’re wondering if you’re depressed or lazy, or maybe you’re a loved one who is concerned about someone, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time I felt/saw joy and happiness?
  • Has work been missed?
  • What is the person’s social calendar, and are they attending events?
  • How long have I felt this way?
  • Does this feeling leave? (Such as when you go out for coffee with friends?)

Are you just lazy?

To understand if you’re lazy, we must define what laziness is. We’ve just discovered that depression is a serious mental illness that can cause havoc on a person’s life. However, many of the symptoms and struggles of depression resemble being lazy too. It can be hard to tell the difference, and if you’re questioning whether you’re depressed or lazy, you’re at the right place.

Before I go too far into being lazy, can we lose the negative vibe that the word lazy seems to bring? Because here is what being lazy is:

  • It’s choosing peace in your environment.
  • It’s protecting boundaries.
  • It’s prioritizing self-care.
  • It’s leaning into you.

So, is being lazy bad? No. Is being lazy all day, every day, a bad thing? I wouldn’t say it’s “bad,” and I would say that you need to find something that lights your soul on fire. Feeling lazy or being lazy are two different things also. Let’s unwrap that, shall we?

Feeling lazy?

If you’re lazy, you might feel tired and unmotivated. However, feeling lazy can typically be snapped out of pretty quickly. It’s more so a mood rather than a physical presence. I’m not suggesting that you choose to feel lazy, but rather that the environment you’re in might make your mood produce lazy vibes.

If you’re struggling with feeling lazy, ask yourself the following:

  • Am I passionate about my career?
  • Do I have any hobbies that please me?
  • How am I spending my free time?
  • What brings me joy?

These four questions can help fight that lazy feeling and spark motivation and inspiration into your life. If the answer is “no” about your career or hobbies, then I’d recommend doing some personal development and leaning into your true passions and desires. Happiness wins always. Internal peace and happiness are priceless and if you’re in a job that doesn’t bring you joy, consider this your sign to move on.

Why is laziness bad?

I bet you’re feeling bad about this if this is you. But, here’s the thing. Don’t. Don’t feel bad for slowing down when life always sends us on a maniacal drive. Don’t feel bad for losing passion and desire. Don’t feel bad for not feeling motivated and listening to what your body needs instead, which is to slow down and do little.

Why is being lazy a bad thing? Here’s where being lazy is a concern:

  • You’re not doing self-care and personal hygiene tasks (a red flag for depression).
  • You don’t have any hope for the future. (Red Flag)
  • You’re avoiding something outside.
  • Your mental health is declining.
  • You don’t necessarily feel lazy, but rather, nothing at all.

Re-think lazy.

I challenge you to re-think laziness and structure it into self-care. If you’re feeling lazy about things like washing the dishes, taking the trash out, or walking the dog, try to practice being mindful and present and find joy in the little things.

Lazy vs. depression: more ways tell the difference.

Life with depression can leave you faced with emotional pain and paralyzed by fear, emptiness, and isolation. But, it’s different than being lazy or choosing to do nothing.

Depression creeps into your whole body and floods your veins with cold, dark, nothingness. For some, it hurts. The body tenses up, and the person struggles with body pain; body pain that doesn’t make sense to others. For others, it causes them to sleep. This can be mistaken for laziness but rest assured, this isn’t.

The sleep that depression brings is like sleep that never satisfies the body. The body feels intense fatigue, and the eyes are so heavy. These feelings can be so intense and so strong that a person can’t function. The pain and fatigue that depression brings is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone, even my worst enemy. And while you’re in pain, depression is fueling your inner narrative with self-doubt, self-hate, and toxic negativity.

The inner narrative.


The inner narrative refers to that inner voice you hear when you think about something. It’s also referred to as self-talk, inner dialogue, and inner monologue.

When a person is depressed, their inner narrative will be very different than if they’re feeling lazy. Depression will often feed you thoughts such as not being worthy, the world not needing you, people being better off without you, and other harsh self-critical things.

Depression controls the narrative, and it takes a wicked dark turn. It might convince you that everything you do is wrong; you’ll never achieve success, or something even darker. It’s common to believe the inner narrative because you’ve always had it and trust it. The problem is that when you’re depressed, your inner narrative is controlled by that depression.

Over time, your inner narrative feeds negative thoughts into you, and eventually, you believe everything it says without question.

Changing it is possible, but it takes effort and work. The influence of this negative self-talk is enormous. This voice will often destroy a person’s life when they’re depressed. It’s important not to underestimate the impact of the inner narrative on a depressed person. The things they’re hearing are very real, and if they are not corrected, they’ll start to believe them.


The inner narrative with laziness might be “you’re not doing enough” or “you’re not working enough.” Or maybe you’re completely comfortable with yourself, and your inner narrative reflects that.

Either way, I challenge you to change your inner narrative surrounding the term lazy. We’ve been conditioned to be judged by our productive capacity. We’re judged by how much we get done in a day, and society rewards us when we’re “running on caffeine” because we work so hard.

I challenge you to think of laziness as beautiful. It’s the act of simply existing without offering an explanation or having any questions. It’s a choice that is contrary to judging how much you hustle. Being lazy is okay. And society doesn’t tell us that enough.

When we see an animal lying on the grass on a summer’s day, we typically don’t question what they’re doing. In fact, we might say, “that’s a good boy! Oh, you’re laying in the sun relaxing?” We acknowledge and reward. Good for you for laying there.

For some reason, it doesn’t translate into humans, and that needs to change. Being lazy is not a deficit. Existing doesn’t need an explanation. Choosing to do nothing rather than something isn’t a bad choice.

Analyze your environment.

If you’re still struggling to understand if you should be concerned about depression or if you’re lazy, then look around your environment. How do you feel about it? Is it messy? Does it need a good cleaning or a complete overhaul?

I can’t reiterate enough: depression isn’t a choice. Some days are worse than others, and for many, episodes can last for many days in a row. It can show in your environment and your relationship with it. If you look around and notice “I need to clean up!” you have some motivation and desire. That’s a good sign. If you look around and feel nothing and you have other symptoms, it’s a good idea to reach out and connect with your doctor.

Check your thoughts.

What is your inner narrative telling you? If you’re on the fence about whether you’re depressed or lazy, check your thoughts. What kind of dialogue is going on inside your mind? Is it things like “I’m so tired,” or “I can’t wait for the weekend,” or is it more like “I feel alone,” or “No one loves me.”

Check-in with your thoughts. Spend time listening and understanding what they’re telling you. If your thoughts are more “I’m tired.” “How much longer till the weekend?” there’s a good chance you need a break and enter the term lazily. Take a break, relax, unwind and do something that refreshes your mind and body.

Spotting when there is a problem.

How do you tell the difference between being depressed and being lazy? How do you know if laziness isn’t a symptom of a more significant mental health issue? What’s the secret?

Don’t worry! I got you! To spot the difference between depression and laziness, you need to look at all the symptoms of depression and judge whether or not you’re experiencing that.

For example, are you just feeling guilty for enjoying a Saturday afternoon bingeing your favorite series? (Which you should not feel guilty about, by the way.) Or are you struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel and are thinking about suicide?

Being lazy is a choice. It’s an option. A person can choose to do nothing that day to create a “lazy day.” The person can give their consent and carry out being lazy. The inner narrative is in charge, and the control is in the person.

Depression, as I’ve said above, isn’t a choice. It’s not an option, and those struggling are not choosing to struggle. It’s not something they gave consent for.

Depression is a mental illness. Several risk factors affect it, but it can happen to anyone. Even those who appear the happiest can be broken by depression. It’s an evil invisible illness that is heavy, dark and causes so much self-doubt and self-hatred.

Keep a journal.

Keeping a journal can be a great indicator of a person’s true feelings, assuming they’re being honest in their writing. It’s also a terrific way to understand and explore different emotions.

Keep a journal about your daily life, and then you’ll be able to refer back to it. Maybe you’ll become more intuitive about things that bother you, possible triggers, and other obstacles. Journaling is an excellent way to express and explore yourself and even understand for yourself what you’re thinking.


Treatment of depression usually involves medications and/or psychotherapy. Doctors will often choose a medication based on past family using it and succeeding. (For example, if your mom has depression and takes a daily low dose of Sertraline, there’s a good chance that if you have depression, you’ll start with this medication too. So it creates a starting point for the patient if there is a family history.)

There are an enormous number of medications to treat depression, and each person responds differently to each. Though each has its side effects, some more severe than others, they also affect each person differently. This goes back to the above when I mentioned that depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Medication therapy is the tool used to help.

A few different types of medications used to treat depression are:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) – Celexa and Prozac
  • Serotonin – Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) – Cymbalta, Effexor XR
  • Atypical Antidepressants – Pamelor and Vivactil

Another treatment for depression is psychotherapy, which is also known as “talk therapy.” This form of therapy involves a relationship between a patient and a professional therapist. The therapist guides the patient through unwrapping triggers, learning new coping skills, and developing skills to identify and overcome negative behavior patterns and change the inner narrative. The psychotherapy approach depends on the symptoms, personal preferences, and patient goals.

Treatment of depression involves ongoing care. Because depression is a multifaceted illness, things can change at any point. A traumatic life event might trigger more severe symptoms causing a change or increase in medication, or you might be doing very well and require less. Depression isn’t linear; its recovery is more a journey than a destination.

Unfortunately, if you have depression, you’re not going to wake up one day and be “fixed.” Instead, you’re going to work hard each day to get through. Some days will be easier than others, but depression isn’t curable. It’s copeable and manageable but not curable.

Can you treat laziness?

If it’s challenging to get motivated, but you’re still able to get things done, it might be a great time to look for your passion. Working at a job you don’t care about contributes to your lack of motivation. Instead, explore and find something that you’re in love with. The job market is massive, and there’s room for everyone, so don’t be afraid to try.

If the lazy feeling is manageable and you’re more or less lacking energy, I’d recommend looking at your diet. Make sure you’re getting enough protein, fiber, and water. If you find you’re too busy for healthy cooking or perhaps you don’t have confident cuisine skills, you can explore healthy smoothies, salads, and meal prep services. Proper nutrition and hydration can significantly affect mood and energy levels.

Are you finding that you feel lazy during the winter when it’s cold and cloudy? Try adding more light to your day. Are you feeling lazy at the end of a Friday work day? Well, that’s pretty normal!

You’re lazy, now what?

Okay, so you’re pretty sure it’s laziness rather than depression that you are experiencing. What, if anything, should you do?

Maintaining a routine can help with staying motivated. Make sure that your daily routine includes things that bring joy and happiness. If you’re struggling with motivation, analyze the content you’re consuming and do a detox if necessary. Take a look at the people you’re spending time with and notice how you feel when you’re in their company.

Energy attracts energy, so negative energy attracts negativity, and the same goes for positive. So, if you’re spending time with people who are somewhat “couch potatoes” and you’re finding that’s what you’re turning into, it might be time to limit how much time you spend with them or accept that’s how you enjoy your time. Either way is okay!

If we reframe our thoughts around the term lazy, then it’s not so bad. If laziness is just a feeling, it passes, and you can control it, then it’s not something to be concerned about. Having a “lazy day” is expected. Just as feeling sad sometimes is normal and is not an indicator of a diagnosis of depression. Feelings are expected, and instead of suppressing them and attaching them to negative comments like “being lazy,” let’s embrace them and maybe even learn to celebrate them.

What if we considered being lazy as a sign of indulgence in ourselves? If we saw it as a sign of self-care and self-love? What if being lazy wasn’t directly related to personality but rather a promise of one’s commitment to oneself? And that time spent being lazy, what if we saw it as a time to unwind?

If we shift the thinking around being lazy, we can also improve the inner narrative. If you struggle with resting or you feel like you haven’t worked hard enough to justify a break, then I’d like to remind you that we don’t need to earn our existence and that being lazy is an act of being.

The takeaway.

It can be hard to know exactly what you’re feeling if you’re in the thick of the feels. So I encourage self-expression and self-discovery in whatever way feels good to you so you can fully understand and accept your feelings.

Depression is real, and it’s a treatable invisible illness. If you think you’re struggling, please reach out. Assess whether you’re experiencing symptoms or not and whether the feelings are short-lived and related to specific activities or if it’s all of the time. Analyze your thoughts and get comfortable with what you hear to figure out what is happening.

Laziness or having an ordinary lazy day…that’s a choice and something the person has full power over. Though they might lack motivation or inspiration to pull out of it, it’s important to acknowledge that they do have that ability, whereas someone with depression doesn’t. Depression takes over, and the person struggling doesn’t have a choice about it.

It’s important to remember that depression is completely treatable even if it’s not completely curable, and you don’t need to struggle in silence.

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