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Laziness: Why it Exists and How to Overcome Chronic Laziness

Australian researchers have identified a new condition characterized by extreme laziness: motivational deficiency disorder (MoDeD). MoDeD is far different from being a couch potato when you get home from work or sleeping in late on a Sunday morning. Instead, motivational deficiency disorder is described as overwhelming and debilitating apathy.

People with motivational deficiency disorder are more than just couch potatoes; they lack a desire to feel or do just about anything.

In cases when a person loses even the motivation to breathe, the condition can be fatal, researchers said.

Though the condition is thought to affect up to one in five Australians -- with an economic impact of $1.7 billion a year -- little is known about the causes of or treatments for motivational deficiency disorder.

"This disorder is poorly understood," says neurologist Leth Argos, who is one of the researchers that identified MoDeD. "It is underdiagnosed and undertreated."

What is Laziness?

Laziness, as defined by the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, is a disinclination to activity or exertion. While we all feel lazy once in a while, someone who is suffering from extreme laziness would feel this way chronically.

Laziness is not an illness or a mental illness (unless it is the extreme form described above), but it can be a symptom of one, including:

  • Depression

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Schizophrenia

Laziness can also develop after a period of intense work or stress, and in this way may actually be the body's way of protecting itself and getting the rest it needs to recuperate.

Lazy or Just Not Motivated?

According to Mel Levine, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina Medical School and director of its Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning, the desire to be productive is universal.

However, a person's drive can become frustrated by various things -- causing a person to lose it altogether (until those dysfunctions are remedied). For instance, a child who has a language production dysfunction may not be able to express his or her thoughts and may give up. Or, a person whose ideas are constantly ignored at work may decide there is no point in trying.

"When we call someone lazy, we condemn a human being," writes Mel Levine in his book The Myth of Laziness.

"We gain energy and feel good about ourselves whenever our personal output wins the approval, the acceptance, the respect of our friends, our families, our bosses (or teachers) and, most of all, our self-critical selves," he continues.

Everyone deserves a lazy day once in a while, but if laziness is starting to interfere with your life, check out the five tips to overcome it below.

Levine believes that when a person's natural output is interrupted -- by failing to produce for whatever reason -- they have "output failure," a condition that is not laziness but is rather a neuro-developmental dysfunction (which could be anything from having trouble writing or speaking to lacking organizational skills). This can cause difficulties throughout adulthood if not remedied.

How to Overcome Laziness

If you or someone you know is experiencing chronic laziness, the following tips can help to get back on track.

  1. Do something that motivates you. All too often, laziness stems from boredom or a complete disinterest in your daily tasks. If you don't feel that your work is rewarding, consider changing careers. Likewise, if your child isn't inherently motivated to do schoolwork, set up a reward system that gives him or her something to work toward. Also, if a particular task seems overwhelming to you or your child (and therefore causes you to not do it), take small steps to make the task more manageable.

  2. Exercise. The more time that passes without taking action, the easier it is to fall into the laziness trap. Exercise is an excellent way to boost your energy levels and put you in a better mood -- so you're ready to face a new day head-on.

  3. Rule out illness. If you lack the desire to do anything, you may be suffering from an illness such as depression or the newly defined motivational deficiency disorder. When laziness becomes chronic or overwhelming, you should talk to your health care provider.

  4. Make a change in your life. Sometimes, just the routine of daily life can lead to laziness. If you feel your daily routine is turning into monotony, sign up for a class at your local community college, volunteer at your town's animal shelter or call up a friend to play tennis.

  5. Surround yourself with supportive people. When laziness begins to set in, one of the worst things you can do is surround yourself with other lazy people. Instead, actively seek out people -- in both professional and personal settings -- who will support your ideas, encourage your success and embrace you as a person.

Recommended Reading

Why Some People Never Get Tired, and How You Can Join Their Ranks

Effective Ways to Deal with Sadness and Grief


Newswise: Australian Scientists Discover New Disease

The Myth of Laziness

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