I’m often asked, “Am I depressed or just lazy?”

It’s a legitimate question, in that many people who suffer from clinical depression will initially feel like they’re just being lazy, not wanting to get off the couch or out of bed. On the surface, the two — laziness and depression — appear to share some similarities.

But dig just a little deeper and you can quickly determine whether you’re depressed or just being lazy.

Depression is a serious, debilitating mental illness that impacts millions of Americans each year. It not only causes distress for the person suffering from it, but also for their loved ones and friends. For employers, it results in millions of hours, and billions of dollars, of lost productivity.

The Key Differences Between Depression & Laziness

The key point about clinical depression is that people don’t want to feel that way. It is completely out of their control. They didn’t do (or fail to do) something that brought about the depression. While episodes of feeling depressed may be brought about by increased stress, generally most people with this condition can’t trace it back to anything in their life.

That’s what so aggravating about depression. It hits a person from out of the blue, for no reason at all. (If there was a reason, at least maybe it would make some sense.)

Laziness, on the other hand, is a clear and simple choice. Whether we admit it or not, when we’re being lazy, we’re simply choosing not to do things in our life. “Oh, cleaning the apartment? I’ll get around to that tomorrow…”

Meanwhile, those people who suffer with depression don’t even notice their apartment is messy or in disarray. It doesn’t enter into the equation. The last thing they are thinking or worrying about is the cleanliness of their apartment. Or themselves.

So I Guess I’m Lazy?

Being lazy isn’t a crime. But it shouldn’t be confused with serious mental illness either. Just because you’re feeling particularly unmotivated one day to get out of bed, go to class or work, and do what’s expected of you doesn’t mean you’re depressed. It’s likely just a passing case of the “blahs.”

Depression doesn’t just last for a day or two. For clinical depression to be diagnosed, it requires you to feel that same, unmotivated way for at least 2 weeks (according to the American Psychiatric Association). Most people who suffer from this condition go weeks — and sometimes even months — feeling horrible, unmotivated, lonely, and in despair before ever seeking treatment.

That’s a key difference. Usually, if you’re just feeling lazy, it’s a passing mood that within a day or two, will pass. Soon enough, you get up, you go to class or work, you clean the apartment. You do what’s needed, and you have the ability to do so.

People with depression don’t have that ability. They’ve lost all concept of meaning in their life, of time, of responsibilities. It just doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.

How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed or Lazy?

You can quickly and easily tell the difference between depression and laziness by taking either our long depression quiz (takes about five minutes for most people to complete) or our quick depression test that takes just a minute or two to complete.

If either of these scientific quizzes suggests you may be suffering from depression, that’s likely a sign that it is not just laziness. Instead, it may be a sign of actual depression — something you should find a mental health professional to check out more thoroughly.

Being lazy once in awhile is normal — we all are. But when that laziness appears to span weeks — or even months, it may be a sign of depression. Please have it checked.