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Moral Question: Depression vs. Laziness

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Posted

OK, so we all know that depression makes it hard to do basic things: shower, clean house, get out of bed, etc. To folks who don't understand depression, this behavior looks like laziness. For those of us inside the nut house, we know (at least on our good-thinking days) that it's the illness, not laziness.

But just because you're depressed, does that automatically mean you're never lazy? How can you tell the difference?

I try to be a very moral person on both the macro level (human rights, justice, etc.) and the micro level (personal virtues). I know I'm depressed, but I also want to know if I'm being lazy, too, so I can stop being lazy. Or if I find it's 100% the depression, I want to know so I can stop beating myself up for being "lazy." I once asked a family friend who was a priest what he thought the difference was. He said, "If you can do something, but you don't do it, that's laziness. If you can't do it, that's depression." A wise answer.

But now I'm wondering, when I say "I can't do the dishes", is it because I really can't, or I just don't want to? My arms aren't broken, so I could physically do dishes. I'm not duct taped to the bed so I can't get out of bed to do them. Is it really "can't" or "don't want to", and how can I tell?

Anyone else struggle with this as a personal moral question? How have you answered it?

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Posted

i think it's more of a motivational thing. people who aren't depressed have motivation to do the most simpilist of task, like brush their teeth. people who are depressed don't have the motivation to even do that. from the outside it does appear that we are being lazy but i think the difference lies in the fact that if we could do these things we would but we can't. our brain won't allow us to.

i don't know, that's just my opinion.

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Posted

I don't think they are mutually exclusive. Depression makes it a lot harder to do simple things. You're more likely to be lazy about doing hard things than doing simple things.

I don't think there's automatically something wrong with being lazy. When you decide if you're going to perform a task or not, you compare the effort required to perform the task to the benefit you get out of it. The depression skews your judgment, making simple tasks seem much harder and therefore not worth the effort. If you decide not to cut the lawn using nail clippers it's not lazy, it's common sense. When depression makes doing the dishes or taking a shower seem as difficult as cutting the lawn with nail clippers, it's also common sense that you not do it.

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Posted

I don't think they are mutually exclusive. Depression makes it a lot harder to do simple things. You're more likely to be lazy about doing hard things than doing simple things.

I don't think there's automatically something wrong with being lazy. When you decide if you're going to perform a task or not, you compare the effort required to perform the task to the benefit you get out of it. The depression skews your judgment, making simple tasks seem much harder and therefore not worth the effort. If you decide not to cut the lawn using nail clippers it's not lazy, it's common sense. When depression makes doing the dishes or taking a shower seem as difficult as cutting the lawn with nail clippers, it's also common sense that you not do it.

i've often turned this question over and over in my head, so thanks Corvid for posting that you can't quite delineate the difference either sometimes.

VE, that was really really well said. that's better than any answer i've ever come up with for myself.

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Posted

I was gonna say that I struggle with the fact that I know I can do it, but I don't. Since this has already been covered, I guess that makes me lazy.

Case in point:

I've known for the past two weeks I've had to wash clothes. Didn't get around to it till Tuesday. My motivation to wash clothes is because I need to take a shower. But then I couldn't take a shower until I washed towels. That's done, but still haven't taken a shower. It's just the act of running some water and using soap. So WTH? It shouldn't be this hard.

It's like it not in me to do it. It seems like the payoff isn't worth the effort.

I guess I'm depressed and lazy.

This is a bad combo.

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Posted

When I'm just dead lazy, the worst I feel is guilt. When I'm uber depressed the best I feel is loathing. The worst, suicidal.

Some days I have to kick my own ass to get moving, but when my personal hygiene starts slipping the mind isn't far behind.

S9

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Posted (edited)

When I am depressed, I will still (most of the time, for the past few years anyway) try to do the stuff on any "to do" list, but - my priorities significantly change (the list would include a lot more stuff, and "more important" stuff, if I was not depressed) **Because I need to make allowances for the fact that:

-I feel like total _rap. I sometimes will spend 30 minutes crying, before I even get out of bed - and I sleep a LOT later (when I've finally fallen asleep. But my "sleep issues" are a whole other topic, I guess.)

-My memory is either going, or totally shot. This always happens to me, when I'm seriously depressed. I consider myself pretty bright, but when very depressed, I cannot remember, for instance, which part of a room I've already vacuumed - even though I just did it (like 2 minutes ago), and am not even finished vacuuming the damn room!

-I will load half a dishwasher, walk away to answer the phone - have a two minute convo w/someone, and then get off the phone - and not remember I'd ever even started loading the dishwasher. It's like I am an Alzheimer's patient. Etc.

This is why many things take longer (and sometimes I even do things twice (because I don't remember doing them at all the first time) vs. doing them badly just once, hehe.)

I try to face the fact, that there are things I simply: 1) Cannot do - 2) Can do, but will take significantly longer. Hence, the paring of the "to do" list.

Maybe my depression is "different" because it's combined w/OCD, I dunno.

*But expecting "more from myself" when I am seriously depressed, seems akin to expecting a person with a broken ankle, to try to run a marathon race. Impractical, cruel, and not necessary.

*I admit, deciding what is lazy and what is not, can sometimes be a "fine line" - but for me, deciding whether or not it's a "fine line" happens mostly when I am mildly or moderately depressed, not severely depressed.

If I am mildly depressed, or (sometimes) moderately depressed, I will "push myself" to do stuff I wouldn't ever even try, if I was feeling severely depressed (things which, were I not depressed, would not require much "pushing myself" at all to do, really).

When severely depressed, I won't push myself at all. I don't feel "bad" about it, either (anymore.)

I've been dealing w/this for a long time, and I now "evaluate" my depressions (mild, moderate, severe), based on things like how much I cry, if I eat, sleep too much (or at all), isolate almost completely, get crazy angry at people for small things, whether I want to do anything at all, etc. - trying not to attach a moral judgment about myself to doing something, or not.

If it's something essential that needs to be done, I find a way to get it done. By me, or someone else, even if I feel near dead. But if I am feeling near dead, it has to be pretty damned essential.

I judge my "level of depression" as mild, moderate or severe, only after about a week (or sometimes 2 weeks), during which time, I decide what I feel like doing (or not) - what I feel I can actually do without driving myself almost insane, based on how I feel; how I am acting and feeling - without "extreme prodding" (from myself, or anyone else.)

My P-doc has helped me to do this. And I keep taking my meds.

When I do this, I can really, truly evaluate what "level" of depression I am experiencing. And thus, what is reasonable (under the circumstances) to expect from myself. Until then, I just try to get by as best I can.

Fortunately, I live in a situation that allows me to do this. If I had kids, I could still do this, but it might be a bit harder. My P-doc helped me with information to "evaluate" my depression level. Anyway - Depression, versus -

Being LAZY - to me, Lazy is -

I do mostly know (by now) when I am just being lazy, because (as Saturnine said) - *I will feel guilty if I am truly being lazy.

Because I will know I am not even trying, and if I'm not trying, it's because I am just plain not interested, or don't want to do something - (versus wanting to do it, or knowing I have to do it, or even trying to do it - but that it's just "not working out" now. Because at the moment, it's just too damned hard. Because I'm depressed.)

If I am being truly lazy, it's not that I even tried, and found something to be too difficult (or know from experience, it will be too difficult.) It's mostly that I just didn't even try______to begin with. I am just blowing something off, and I know it.

*But I've been dealing with the _rappy depression stuff for eons (over 30 years now) - and my "bottom end-line" of depression never seems to go below a certain level. Granted, that level can get pretty bad, but at least at this point, I am familiar with it, and know what it feels like, and about how bad "really bad" is going to ever get (if that makes any sense.)

- Susan

Edited by pleasemakeitstop

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Posted

That is such a good question. I think the answer revolves around motivation.

I know what I have to do, I know what I used to do, the action of just doing it is so insignificant. I know it is, I know how easy it is to shower, to wash clothes, to do the dishes. But sometimes I don't even eat because I can't motivate myself to get beyond this invisible wall which is blocking me.

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Posted

I just think it depends on the person. I was the complete opposite of lazy before depression hit.

I had a spotless house, was a meticulous groomer and then WHAM! I did almost nothing. With treatment I'm back to doing the important stuff, like house chores and washing my hair regularly. But thing like nice flower gardens and going to the gym may never come back ;) That is my biggest fear with this whole thing. I only got sick a couple years ago, so I remember what it was to be very active and wish I could make it come back.

Good question!

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Posted

In my experience every time somebody was labeled "Lazy" it later turned out there was a physical/mental ailment at fault.

I could not for the life of me get over a 'simple' bout of pneumonia for almost 2+1/2 months. My family called me lazy and told me to get off my ass and work it off. Finally visited my own family physician (instead of those medicenter quacks) who diagnosed asthma... 2 weeks later I'm 100% again (with appropriate asthma treatments).

My Mother was ill with stomach issues for over a year, again they told her it was all in her head. Turned out to be advanced colon cancer, it almost killed her.

My Sister, slow and sluggish -> low iron.

My Grandmother, also slow and sluggish -> hypothyroidism.

My wife and I both have depression and asthma (you're right by the way... they do feed off each other.), mine being the worse in both cases. You would figure that my family would know that there's something actually wrong when we don't get something done, but nope, it's still cause we're lazy.

After all this I've concluded that people ARE lazy, but not in the way you suspect. PEOPLE ARE LAZY THINKERS! They don't stop to think about WHY someone or something is not working to expectations.

If a car is stalling out it's because it's an old piece of junk... not because you've never cleaned the air filter or fuel injectors.

That city worker leaning on the shovel is a slacker... not because it's 100F outside your air conditioned car.

When a computer crashes or locks up it's because it's defective... not because you've loaded it up with spyware and never cleaned the registery.

A co-worker keeps falling ill it's because they're slacking off... not because the office air is polluted with welding emullsates and paint fumes.

I've found that people will try their best in most circumstances, but often their are obstacles that most of us just don't see or think about.

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Posted

yea, good question and one I struggle with whenever depressed- even low level depression, b/c lack of motivation is one of the first things to go.

As a child I was told many times that i was lazy. I was a dreamer, in my head, in other worlds, and emotionally distracted.....but the accusations of laziness were so contemptuous and punishing that my guilt/self-loathing around that gets really entangled when I'm dragging around the lead weight of depression.

For me the judgement is "lazy and selfish". lazy, selfish girl. But being "lazy and selfish" allowed me to cope with the emotional turmoil better. Unfortunately, that understanding vanishes when I'm in the quicksand.

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Posted

When I'm depressed, I don't generally consider myself lazy. It's just that nothing is worth doing.

I don't have to look nice since I don't leave my house.

The laundry machine can hold a huge load, so why not let it pile up?

Nothing is exciting, so why get out of bed?

Back to VE's theory on the subject. It's not that the depression makes it much harder for me, it just takes away all potential benefit.

I guess it sounds like laziness to others, but I can't help the fact that I am randomly unable to take pleasure in anything. That's just a part of my biology.

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Posted

I know from the experiences that I am going through that it isn't laziness...for the most part, there are some things that we all do out of laziness, depressed or not. But depression makes this a lot harder to od, so if you were a lazy person to begin with it is worse...but there are also people who can become OCD about tasks and are depressed.

It is hard to take pleasure in things...I cant remember the last time I laughed or had a great day, and it sucks when people think you are just an asshole...but realy you are an emotionless pit...or an emotional wreck. It makes you more depressed when you think about it, and sometimes you feel like they are better off with out you or that you cause issues with other people. But most people who are not actually dealing with it themselves judge us...we are making it up, or lazy, some of us are lazy but the emotional pain makes everyhthing hard to do. My daughter who is 2 could come up to me and name off all 50 states and I probably wouldnt react like a "normal" parent, Id say great job and smile and that is it...and it is sad...she is always trying to impress me, and it is impressive it is just hard to become excited when it feels like you have a cynder block on your chest.

My opinion is it really depends on the person...if you were lazy when you weren't having a hard time it is an excuse (not always!!! please don't burn me at the stake) there are alot of people though that use that as an excuse...Im depressed so I am not going to do laundry. But for some people it is a down right effort to go to the bathroom...or go outside to get the mail, we become vampires in our coffins and we just sit there waiting for something to happpen...but what we dont realize is that until we take the initiative to help our selves we will always be stuck in this rutt. Not only meds but finding a hobby or something to up our mood...hell if you have to skinny dip in the fountain at the mall to make your self happy DO IT (not really) but we have to help ourselves because no one else is going to do it for us.

And by the way...my sink stinks too....I do dishes when I have to,like when there is not a stitche of clean silverware... and I have a dish washer!

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Posted

I honestly can't tell anymore. I need to do household chores and sometimes I could and be happy or at least OK about them but most times i just let others do it. I hate this. How am I going to work if I'm this lazy/or is it still depression? Either way, it's still just up to me to get over it with or without meds/therapy. I haven't even been applying for jobs. Been like this for three years now. The wolf is at the door. Dysthymia i have but I still need to live my life. Especially since I no longer want to kill myself anymore.

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Posted

I think laziness and depression can go hand in hand. It's a cycle, you begin genuinely not being able to do things and end up not pushing yourself because the inaction becomes a habit. The more you get accustomed to poor hygiene and cleanliness and a lack of routine, the more it seems okay, the more excuses can be made, and nothing improves.

A lot of my recoveries from bouts of depression were heralded by my making myself, against all odds, do small tasks that seemed impossible. I had to not give myself a laundry list of reasons why something was too hard, I just had to suck it up and do it. Of course there needs to be a balance, you can't climb everest when you'll depressed. But I do think that little things like teeth cleaning and opening the curtains helps.

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Posted

The priest's answer wasn't "wise". It was shallow in the guise of wise.

See all the RIGHT answers above. From people who have a clue!

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Posted

I think laziness and depression can go hand in hand. It's a cycle, you begin genuinely not being able to do things and end up not pushing yourself because the inaction becomes a habit.

But then, as previous posters said, even using the word "laziness" to label oneself is already a symptom of depression. We are more prone to have [link=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamental_attribution_error]erroneous attribution judgments[/link] about ourselves while we're in the pits of depression.

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Posted

Laziness, I think, is a choice. It's related to procrastination. You know you should do something, but you make the choice to put it out of your mind and do something else instead. You are choosing hedonism over hard work, you are choosing short term benefits for what is right in the long term.

Often, with laziness, the person is choosing to do something pleasurable or relaxing; e.g. watch a fun movie, play on the computer, go out with friends as opposed to clean the house or study for school. The person says "I just don't feel like it" with the rationale behind not feeling like it being "because I am enjoying what I am doing now more than what I should be doing". That is being lazy.

Depression, on the other hand, is about not being *able* to do things. You don't go out because you are too fatigued. You don't take a shower or get dressed because you just can't. You feel terrible sitting there smelly and crazy but you just can't do it. With depression, when you fuck up things (like, missing bills or calling out of work, or fucking up at work) It is usually because your brain isn't working right...1) You can't think 2) you can't focus 3) you can't care. In no part of this chain of events does "having too much fun doing something else" figure in to the picture, as is the case with laziness.

In no time during depression are you neglecting responsibilities because you are getting enjoyment in doing something else. Because, by definition, depression features a marked loss of pleasure.

People in depression may distract themselves (which superficially looks like hedonism), but the underlying feeling is "doing this makes me feel less, thus less pain" as opposed to "doing this makes me feel good". People in depression may play on the computer and watch movies but they really don't feel good, they feel less and are distracted from what would otherwise be intense pain, crying, guilt, etc.

And , generally, people in depression are not doing leisure activities but avoiding responsibilities (as is the case in laziness). Some depressive people may do this, but that is probably more related to personality traits than the depression itself. In general, depressive people try to maintain functionality thus are more likely to focus on absolute necessities (like, trying to pay bills and go to work), the first things to go in depression are going to be leisure / non necessary activities like socializing/relationships, shopping, creativity, hobbies. The last things to go are going to be the shit keeping them alive - paying bills and getting the corpse into work. Maslows heirarchy n junk.

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Posted

When I'm just dead lazy, the worst I feel is guilt. When I'm uber depressed the best I feel is loathing. The worst, suicidal.

Some days I have to kick my own ass to get moving, but when my personal hygiene starts slipping the mind isn't far behind.

S9

This.

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Posted

In my experience every time somebody was labeled "Lazy" it later turned out there was a physical/mental ailment at fault.

I could not for the life of me get over a 'simple' bout of pneumonia for almost 2+1/2 months. My family called me lazy and told me to get off my ass and work it off. Finally visited my own family physician (instead of those medicenter quacks) who diagnosed asthma... 2 weeks later I'm 100% again (with appropriate asthma treatments).

My Mother was ill with stomach issues for over a year, again they told her it was all in her head. Turned out to be advanced colon cancer, it almost killed her.

My Sister, slow and sluggish -> low iron.

My Grandmother, also slow and sluggish -> hypothyroidism.

My wife and I both have depression and asthma (you're right by the way... they do feed off each other.), mine being the worse in both cases. You would figure that my family would know that there's something actually wrong when we don't get something done, but nope, it's still cause we're lazy.

After all this I've concluded that people ARE lazy, but not in the way you suspect. PEOPLE ARE LAZY THINKERS! They don't stop to think about WHY someone or something is not working to expectations.

If a car is stalling out it's because it's an old piece of junk... not because you've never cleaned the air filter or fuel injectors.

That city worker leaning on the shovel is a slacker... not because it's 100F outside your air conditioned car.

When a computer crashes or locks up it's because it's defective... not because you've loaded it up with spyware and never cleaned the registery.

A co-worker keeps falling ill it's because they're slacking off... not because the office air is polluted with welding emullsates and paint fumes.

I've found that people will try their best in most circumstances, but often their are obstacles that most of us just don't see or think about.

This too, makes a lot of sense.

I consider "laziness" to be a behavior a person engages in out of choice, sorta like procrastination, usually related to psychological issues like having unmet needs.

I also think, sometimes, low stress/relaxed personality types are labeled as lazy by high strung, neurotic or energetic types.

But, I forget that most of the time people consider "lazy" to be people who have obvious (or not so obvious) physiological disorders (or even psychological/psychiatric ones). Most people look at fatigued obese people and conclude they must be lazy. I see someone with an obvious metabolic and endocrinological disorder. I see someone who would probably feel a lot more energetic if they took glucose tolerance enhancing supplements, medication, and changed their diet so as to dramatically reduce glucose and raise % energy from fats. I know this because I was in that position.

I think if the person wants to do more but can't find the energy to do it, it almost always is a physical or psych disorder. That's why I consider a crucial factor of whether or not one is "lazy" is choice, or some kind of hedonistic gain from the behavior.

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Posted

Here's another cut at it, which may be unusual- I don't know. It's not exactly laziness vs depression but...

It involves anxiety and a kind of frozen panic that I don't know what to do, so I find myself standing in the middle of a room unable to move, or sitting staring at nothing chewing the hell out of my fingernails, or if I'm mobile I'm drifting about the house feeling UNABLE to break out of it and start doing something. I can do that all day and feel supremely guilty when I realize that I accomplished absolutely nothing.

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Posted

Here's another cut at it, which may be unusual- I don't know. It's not exactly laziness vs depression but...

It involves anxiety and a kind of frozen panic that I don't know what to do, so I find myself standing in the middle of a room unable to move, or sitting staring at nothing chewing the hell out of my fingernails, or if I'm mobile I'm drifting about the house feeling UNABLE to break out of it and start doing something. I can do that all day and feel supremely guilty when I realize that I accomplished absolutely nothing.

YES!

A thought that I should DO something. (Pick up stuff, clean etc.) But then just blank on actually doing. (And not just a feeling of not knowing where to begin etc.) And if I DO begin something I can't sustain it. E.G. I'll start to do dishes. Wash a few. Feel overwhelmed or get distracted. Then the blank is back and it's like doing ANYTHING doesn't seem to make any sense. (I don't mean that it seems futile, I mean that it's almost like an aphasia. There's no meaning to it in my mind.)

I hate that blankness! ;)

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Posted

There have been times when I didn't shower for days, or weeks, and then I would start smelling myself. It helped to lift my mood a bit because, "I stink, therefore I am."

In reading replies to this question, which I never did come up with an answer for on my own, I have concluded: When you feel upset about not doing something before you don't do it, you're depressed. When you don't feel guilty about not doing something until after you haven't done it, you're either lazy or forgetful and you know which.

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Posted

On the subject of guilt defining laziness/illness, for me that doesn't work.

I feel guilty for not doing whatever it is I'm SUPPOSED to be doing, ill or not.

The bottom line is that stuff needs taking care of, it's up to me to do it, and if i don't I'm letting the family down and making more work for them. Ill or not. It has the same end result, whatever the cause.

Sometimes I just can't get my head around what I've got to do. Other times I don't know where to start, and can relate to that panic at the thought of it. Sometimes I just can't see the point, cos I'm going to end up doing a shit job of it anyway and maybe make even more mess to clear up.

But I AM sometimes lazy. I find myself with one of those rare opportunities where I am ENJOYING watching something, or playing with my daughter, whatever it may be, and I just want to make the most of it. I don't apologise for that, cos it's valuable in it's own way. It's what my first tdoc called being "positively selfish", doing something just for myself.

Great topic, though!

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