Making goals in life can seem daunting for the average person, let alone someone with depression. And once those goals are set, the next step is to find the motivation to complete those goals. This is another integral part of coping with depression.
Motivation is what drives the completion of goals, but oftentimes depression can involve a lack of motivation.
Eric Klinger, a professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota Morris, defines motivation in an e-mail as “the internal states of the organism that lead to the instigation, persistence, energy, and direction of behavior towards a goal.”
According to a textbook called “Depression: Causes and Treatment,” people with depression can have changes in motivation. For example, “the loss of motivation may be viewed as the result of the patient’s hopelessness and pessimism.” Because people with depression may focus on an expected negative outcome, this leads to inactivity toward a goal.
When a person fails at achieving a goal, there can be a reactive depression, and this can sometimes be useful, Klinger said.
“I theorize that it is nature's way of helping us to disengage from unattainable goals,” Klinger said. “It does this by undermining commitment to goal pursuits, but it tends to lead to general loss of interest in goals one had once valued and pursued.”
Some people can bounce back after failure, but others can fall into a deep depression.
“Depressed individuals tend toward undervaluing possible goals and underestimating their chances of attaining their goals,” Klinger said. “This and other features of depression (which is, after all, also a biological process) reduce their energy levels and their willingness to put forth effort.”
Depression can also lead to other negative results besides lack of motivation.
“They lose some touch with their own true values and may adopt goals suggested by others that may turn out quite unsatisfying,” Klinger said.
Although lack of motivation can be a tough cycle to break, there are ways to improve the desire and motivation to reach goals while also having depression.