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Am I bored or depressed?
Is boredom a sign of depression?
Can boredom cause depression?
You’re probably asking yourself questions such as these if you’ve landed on this article. You’ll hopefully find your answers here.
To be clear, boredom is a perfectly normal and expected state of being. Life isn’t exciting all of the time. Sometimes, things are quiet, nothing holds your interest, and you can’t find a mental spark. In normal circumstances, boredom should compel you to seek some kind of activity to stimulate your mind.
Of course, it doesn’t always do that, particularly with all the tools and gadgets we have nowadays. Bored people may find themselves mindlessly scrolling social media feeds, or binge-watching shows on a streaming service. It’s an easy, convenient way to attempt to stimulate oneself that typically won’t offer relief. It’s not stimulating in the way that your brain is asking for.
Depression and boredom are easy to confuse. The two may also be related to one another. After all, elements of depression can cause boredom, and elements of boredom can look like symptoms of depression. But there are important differences that separate the two.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you figure out whether you are experiencing boredom or depression and to work through whichever it is. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
What is the difference between boredom and depression?
Depression is a mental state that causes symptoms like apathy, hopelessness, anxiety, fatigue, and mood and appetite changes. Many people will experience depression as a mental state which is not to be confused with a chronic illness like Major Depression Disorder.
Certain symptoms of depression may mirror or cause boredom; apathy, hopelessness, fatigue, and mood change are chief among them. Of course, not everyone who experiences boredom or depression will experience all these symptoms. The lived experience of depression and boredom may dramatically vary from person to person.
Boredom may spur positive or negative behaviors. It signals that you are doing something that is not providing you with stimulation or satisfaction. Your brain is making you feel bored to tell you that you need to do something more challenging, fulfilling, interesting, or stimulating than you currently are.
Bored people may not feel like doing anything or find themselves experiencing negative symptoms like eating too much. They may also experience difficulty concentrating or feel sad, tired, or frustrated. In addition, people who experience chronic boredom or who get bored easily may be at risk of using risky behavior to cope, like engaging in risky sex or substance abuse.
But that just sounds like depression, right? Well, yes, with the caveat that depression has more symptoms to go along with it.
People who experience depression may also experience symptoms like suicidal thoughts and attempts, self-harm, trouble sleeping, oppressive fatigue, dramatic changes in appetite, believing or feeling you’re worthless, chronic pain, loss of sex drive, extreme rage, agitation, and despair. And, of course, boredom.
Boredom may also be the top of a slippery slope into depression as the signs of boredom escalate into depression. It won’t be the case for everyone, of course, as some people will remain just bored. But for others, boredom can descend into depression even if boredom is not a singular, direct cause of depression.
How can you tell the difference?
How can you tell the difference between boredom and depression when there are so many overlapping symptoms? The primary differences will be in your mood level and how long the feelings last. According to the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition), to receive a diagnosis of clinical depression, one must experience symptoms on most days of a two-week period. Source.
Depression is something chronic and persistent. Boredom is something that comes and goes. You might feel bored for a little while, then feel better when you engage in behavior that stimulates your mind. Depression is a consistent heaviness and fog that doesn’t typically recede with stimulation. It may, for a while, but then it just rolls back in once the stimulation is over.
People often describe depression as a heaviness, though that may appear differently from person to person. It may be extremely difficult to spot someone with high-functioning depression because they may still experience bouts of joy and happiness. Furthermore, they may carry the depression well behind a smile and “I’m fine!”
Boredom may recede on its own or stimulate positive action that causes it to recede. For example, if you’re bored, you may pick up a book, and now you’re no longer bored. However, boredom may sometimes be longer lasting. For example, suppose you’re bored with your job. In that case, you’ll experience chronic boredom because of the lack of mental stimulation.
That doesn’t mean you’re sad or depressed. You may just need a different job or some form of mental stimulation to get you through your day.
How can I find relief from my boredom?
A person experiencing boredom often needs some form of mental stimulation. Although they should not be considered a simple cure for boredom, you may want to try the following:
1. Improve your self-care routine.
Are you spending adequate time on self-care and replenishing yourself? Do you take time for some rest and relaxation? Do you do things that bring you happiness, make you feel fulfilled, or otherwise generate positive feelings?
And are you spending enough time focusing on yourself and your well-being rather than pouring everything into other people? Do you have good personal boundaries? Do you take regular breaks when doing physically or mentally strenuous activities?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you need to take action.
2. Make a list of things you’d like to do.
Allow your imagination to flex by developing a list of things you want to see, do, or experience. This exercise aims to get your mind to realize the potential of everything else you can accomplish with your time and life.
Set a timer for 15 minutes, let your mind wander, and jot down a list. Not only will it help you imagine more, but it’ll also give you a targeted list of goals to pursue to build on your life experiences.
3. Turn to healthy people for support.
People can either fill or drain you. Try to surround yourself with supportive people who can help fill your bucket when you feel tapped out. Spending time with positive, supportive people can significantly boost your mood and alleviate boredom.
On the other hand, don’t spend so much time with people who drain your mental well-being. Doing so will make you less resilient to life and lead to further boredom.
4. Create a list of stimulating activities.
You are far more likely to pick up an activity if you’ve already decided what it is when the boredom rolls in. Make yourself a list of things you find stimulating so you can just turn to the list instead of needing to decide every time. Include favorite books, exercise, hobbies, or talking to a friend. Try to include both solo and group activities. Socialization can do wonders to alleviate boredom.
If you’re unsure what should go on your list, take a look at this list of things to do when bored.
5. Take action.
It can be difficult to take action when you’re either bored or depressed (or both). This is because so many people wait for some sort of motivation to take action. The problem is that motivation may never come. Sometimes you must force yourself to take the first step, whether or not you want to. Don’t sit around and wait for motivation. That will make things worse. Instead, get yourself up, take the first step, and get moving.
Easier said than done, right? Yep. Still, it’s something you have to do.
Final thoughts on boredom and depression.
Depression is a frequent chronic condition. Boredom is intermittent. It comes and goes when your mind is looking for appropriate stimulation.
Boredom may lead to depression and sadness. It can cause you to withdraw from friends and family, life activities, or things that bring you happiness because “I’m bored, and there’s nothing to do.” Bored people may also engage in unhealthy habits like substance abuse for relief, which is another slippery slope into depression.
Still, if you can’t tell the difference between whether you’re bored or experiencing depression, it would be a good idea to speak with a certified mental health professional about what you are experiencing.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they ought to get help for. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
Depression is often treatable. Relief from depression may also relieve boredom, but relief from boredom typically will not relieve depression.