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Sadness and lack of motivation in depression

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Any psychological disorder can be analyzed by observing its component parts and symptoms, and depression is no exception. In her case, two of the phenomena that most characterize her are lack of motivation and sadness, which are reflected in practically all areas of the lives of those who develop depression.

The purpose of this article is help you recognize the way depression expresses itself through demotivation and sadness, and how to intervene in therapy to reduce their strength.

  • Related article: "Types of depression: its symptoms, causes and characteristics"

Characteristics of depression

Depression is one of the mental disorders that most affect the population in Western countries, and it is estimated that in these nations the percentage of people who will develop it at some point in life is between 8 and 15%.

However, unfortunately many of these cases do not have to be diagnosed, and there are even those who do not arrive to go to mental health professionals because they do not know how to differentiate between simple emotional discomfort and depression.

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The truth is difficulties correctly identifying emotions and feelings create problems in the face of any mood disorder, and in the case of depression, this psychological state is often "labeled" as simple sadness and lack of motivation. Although it is true that in a summarized way these two terms can cover a good part of the effects of this alteration, it must be understood that depression is more than that.

Demotivation and sadness as facets of depression

Let's start by looking at how we can distinguish between simple demotivation and sadness and their "versions" in depression.

The sadness

Sadness that is not associated with a psychological disorder is a state of mind that is usually difficult to objectify, but that is usually expressed in a review of ideas of why the present is unfavorable for you and says negative things about yourself, as well as a melancholic fixation on past moments that are considered better than the here and now.

It is a psychological state in which the feeling of guilt and regret are very frequent and in which in general the emotionally painful comparisons: comparisons between oneself and others, between past and present, between past and (assumed) future, etc.

On the other hand, most people are able to identify the reason (s) for which they are sad: a bad test result, a love breakup, the death of a loved one, the longing for a happy childhood that contrasts sharply with the present, etc.

In addition, sadness often goes hand in hand with crying and a feeling of strong fatigue, that one is "out of combat ", which leads to giving up to improve the situation, something that distinguishes it from other forms of negative emotionality such as example the anxiety. In any case, in the vast majority of cases the sadness disappears in a period of a few days or weeks.

The sadness that arises associated with the depression disorder presents some differences that are worth knowing. First, its duration and consistency over time is greater. It is true that a person with depression does not usually stay for several months experiencing exactly the same emotional state, but in general this stays significantly low during this time. On the other hand, although people do not always cry frequently, their thoughts are common. negative about the present and the future and a feeling of hopelessness arises, that nothing will change for the better.


Demotivation is usually understood as a lack of predisposition to participate in activities, and the inability to get excited about projects that should be important to the person. This psychological state translates into procrastination (the tendency to leave for later the responsibilities that must be attend as soon as possible), frustration at not knowing what to do, and passive attitude, so that others have to initiative.

In depression demotivation is more than just a lack of interest. In many cases, it consists of a genuine inability to feel pleasure and even anticipatory pleasure, and it is also very common to experience intense psychological fatigue. In this state, the person can only aspire to carry out the most important activities, and sometimes not even those: it is usual that falls into hygiene problems, social relationships with friends and often also with family are weakened, etc.

At the same time, this lifestyle enhances feelings of sadness and hopelessness, so the problem feeds itself... Unless you decide to combat depression by going to the root of the disorder.

  • You may be interested: "Demotivation: what is it and what are its types?"

What is done in therapy in the face of this low state of mind?

Psychology professionals are trained to train patients with depression in habits and thought patterns that weaken this mood disorder. The objective is to help you generate situations for yourself capable of breaking this vicious cycle of demotivation and negative thoughts, to gain autonomy and be able to experience again happiness. Plus, all this without the side effects of drug treatments.

What psychologist specializing in adults, I know that even though the feelings and emotions that make the person with depression suffer are unique and non-transferable, that does not prevent that state of mind can be overcome through scientifically proven methods and effective. That process involves looking beyond the labels we popularly use to "summarize" emotions.

Bibliographic references:

  • Belloch, A.; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2010). Manual of Psychopathology. Volume I and II. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
  • de Zwart PL, Jeronimus BF, de Jonge P, et al. (October 2019). Empirical evidence for definitions of episode, remission, recovery, relapse and recurrence in depression: a systematic review. Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences. 28 (5): 544–562.
  • National Collaborating Center for Mental Health. Depression. (2009). The treatment and management of depression in adults (updated edition). National Clinical Practice Guideline Number 90. London: British Psychological Society and Royal College of Psychiatrists.
  • World Health Organization. ICD 10. (1992). Tenth Revision of the International Classification of Diseases. Mental and Behavioral Disorders: Clinical Descriptions and Diagnostic Guidelines. Madrid: Meditor.
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