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The Frustrating Symptom of Depression We Need to Talk About


Usually I’m not the type of person to easily get bored. I have a lot of hobbies and interests. I move pretty easily between them — if one thing loses my attention, I can quickly move on to another. That is until I become depressed. 

I start to lose enjoyment in the things that usually bring me happiness. It tends to start off slowly. It starts with me not wanting to do things that are a little more labor-intensive such as painting, writing or going for walks. Then I start to lose interest in things I would categorize as medium intensity, such as building my Legos, reading or running simple errands. Finally the easiest of things fall away, such as watching TV, listening to music and even just sitting around becomes a chore. 

At the worst I’ve found myself laying on the floor staring up at the ceiling, bored out of my mind but not wanting to do anything about it. A friend of mine who experiences something similar has described herself sitting in a chair and staring at a spot on the wall for hours on end. It’s painful, exhausting and leaves me with a sensation of wanting to pull my skin off. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the best way I can describe it.

If you check the symptoms of depression, you will find this boredom right there in the criteria. It states a symptom can be “loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.” The fancy term for it is “anhedonia.” If you experience this symptom, please know it is common and you aren’t the only one. I have major depressive disorder, so it comes as part of the package.

As depression has been part of my life for a long time, I have slowly built up a list of things I can try to do when this boredom hits. Sometimes I have to go through quite a few things before I find something that is at least somewhat intriguing. Sometimes I can only tolerate 20 minutes of an activity before I need to move on. Other times I try and try, but nothing seems to stick and the floor wins out. Regardless, here is my list of things to try when everything feels like watching paint dry. 

1. Listen to podcasts

2. Take a bath

3. Watch game shows

4. Create Amazon wish lists

5. Do laundry or light cleaning

6. Take a nap

7. Go see a movie

8. Go for coffee

9. Do basic errands

10. Make and go to appointments

11. Do my nails

Lastly it’s important that I talk about it in therapy as well as with my psychiatrist. In therapy we can sometimes come up with new ideas of things I can try, or reframe the boredom into something else. With my psychiatrist, this may signal the need to make a medication change or to at least keep an eye on my symptoms in case they worsen.

It’s hard to make it through the day when everything feels tedious. If you experience this difficulty, please know you aren’t the only one. If you find yourself laying on the floor or staring at the wall, as odd or embarrassing as that might be, be assured there are many of us that do the same. Try some of the things on my list and see if they help. Or create your own list, and let us know in the comments what are some of the things that help you. Lastly be sure to use your supports, as they can often be of assistance.

Unsplash story via Gabriel Nunes