Am I depressed? Lazy? Or feeling sorry for myself?

What is the difference between depression, laziness, and self-pity?

16 September 2019


Dear Maddi,

How do I know if I'm depressed or just lazy or feeling sorry for myself?

Sincerely, Confused

Dear confused, let us have a look at these concepts separately and dig a little deeper to see if we can help you get some clarity.

Depression is a serious debilitating mental illness. It persists for more than two weeks, and it impacts multiple areas of a person's life. Depression is often marked by ongoing feelings of sadness, hopelessness, apathy, fatigue, a fixation on past failures or self-blame, as well as thoughts of death and suicide. It is not uncommon for people with depression to think they are being "lazy" or to hear similar messaging but clinical depression is far from being lazy and it often requires psychological treatment to be managed or resolved.

On the other hand, laziness is a choice not to do something because of the effort involved. It is typically momentary, possibly restricted to a few specific activities and the person does not describe enduring symptoms of depression. It is normal to feel lazy sometimes. We all do. But if it is getting in the way of your life, it might be helpful to understand why. Is it simply the effort involved? Is it because you are not interested in the task? Is there something you fear? There is no magic solution to laziness except to understand it and then make the decision to just do it.

Self-pity can include ruminating over problems, feeling angry about what life has dealt you, craving the sympathy of others, and unfortunately sometimes falling into a pattern of one upping other people's struggles. It is normal to have moments of self-pity, so if you feel the need to throw yourself a little pity party go ahead. Just like any other party, it eventually ends. Self-pity can be self-soothing and can help you accept or change your circumstances but when it becomes a habit it can be quite toxic, and strip you of finding any joy in life. That in itself can lead to depression.

To summarize, it is really the pervasive and prolonged nature of depression that distinguishes it from the momentary moments of laziness or self-pity, which are really just part of being human.

If you feel you might be struggling with depression, do not hesitate to schedule a mental health consult with Counselling and Clinical Services. Our trusted professionals will be happy to help you.

Written by Maddalena (Maddi) Genovese, and edited by Suman Varghese, Counselling and Clinical Services Satellite Psychologists

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