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Can boredom be related to depression? Here are a few ways to find out!

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Waking up every day to do the same tasks can be boring. No wonder the term Monday Blues was coined by some genius. After all, we don’t want Sunday to end. Boredom is a state where one experiences lethargy and hopelessness and finds things to be unsatisfying or intriguing. However, boredom in moderation is not bad. It is a sign that something needs to be changed. It can ignite the creative spark, set us up to explore and seek purpose in life. It helps to set new goals and motivate us to achieve the same. Some are able to navigate a boring job by working out, pursuing a side hustle, having an active social life, and spending more time with family and friends, thus improving their mental well-being.

However, some aren’t. Why’s that?

Before getting to the answer, let’s understand can boredom cause depression?

Psychologists at the University of Virginia conducted an experiment to study the power of the human mind in 2014. Individuals were placed in rooms devoid of distractions and the psychologists expected partcipants to day dream or sit quietly for sometime. However, people disliked it and many preferred physical pain over boredom. With a button to get mild shock, 67% of men and 25% of women pressed it at least once to escape boredom. Shockingly, one of the participants was shocked 190 times. Research has also found that individuals are prone to self-harm and exhibit willingness to hurt others in boredom. According to the paper

A paper on Relationships between Boredom Proneness, Mindfulness, Anxiety, Depression and substance abuse, found that boredom proneness correlated positively with anxiety, depression and substance abuse. This means that people who experience high levels of boredom are likely to indulge in alcohol, drugs, gambling, overeating, reckless driving and are at the risk of anxiety and depression. It means boredom and depression are co-related. A 2013 research also found that people with brain injuries were prone to boredom. The exact mechanism is unclear and it is suspected that the boredom is the result of damage to the value and reward areas of the brain. The explanation is that when things lose value due to the damage, people with brain injuries are likely to be bored. Further, it has been found that prolonged duration of boredom has negative consequences on mental health. Research on solitary confinement of prisoners shows long-term boredom of prisoners to quickly translate to depression, cognitive disturbances, hallucinations and psychosis, self-harm and suicide.

Thus, boredom proneness - an inherent trait determines why some individuals are prone to mental health issues.

How does work impact boredom or boredom at work depression?

I hope most of us dread going to work if our work is repetitive, lacks creativity and fulfillment.

In fact, doing repetitive work contributes to boredom, increasing the risk of mental health issues.

Both early and modern research evidence suggests the same. According to a 1962 paper published in the British Medical Journal on the physical and mental effects of monotony in modern industry, monotony and fatigue were the two elements that affect happiness and health of workers at the workplace. Dr. Judy Willis, a neurologist, explains that boredom can blur judgment, goal setting, risk assessment, focus and control on our emotions. Thus, running on a hamster wheel at work can cause chronic boredom, leading to depression, anxiety and stress or we can say, it is depression due to boredom .

Boredom can also be viewed positively. For example: boredom-contributing factors such as lack of autonomy, repetitive work, lack of purpose and others can nudge individuals to search for new jobs. A survey by Korn Ferry of ~5,000 professionals reveals that the top reason why people sought out new jobs in 2018 was due to boredom in the current ones.

If you wonder, retirement is the solution to being happy, you’re wrong! According to a 2013 study by the Institute of Economic Affairs, retirement increases the chances of suffering from clinical depression by 40%. Especially, the rate of suicide is higher in men aged above 50 and highest for men over 75 years. As men will no longer be able to get a boost to their self-esteem from work or be breadwinners, they tend to view retirement as a major life altering event.

Boredom due to lack of work also impacts mental health.

Irrespective of your work situation, recognise mental health as a priority and seek therapy when needed. Manoshala offers counseling for conditions such as work stress, anxiety, depression, grief, etc. via online and offline sessions. We have 98 experts from institutions like Harvard, NYU, and Berkeley who can handle the emotional states of people in an individual or a group setting.By understanding individuals’ needs, our experts suggest personalized therapy sessions to manage their mental health condition.

Book a free 15-minutes pre-screening call with us to discuss your requirements.

Is boredom a symptom of depression?

We all feel bored. Do not jump to the conclusion that you’re depressed. Depression is diagnosed by a psychotherapist and one shouldn’t self-diagnose based on reading articles.

Most of us deal with our boredom by watching Netflix, listening to songs, calling a friend, sleeping, going for a walk, scrolling Instagram for sometime and getting back to our life. A few may even make positive lifestyle changes such as active planning for the day, taking care of diet, sleeping on time, etc and work towards work-life balance. Do you still think, Is boredom a sign of depression? However, if you experience chronic boredom that impacts your work, health and every day functioning, then it could be a symptom of depression.

  • Do you always feel in a low mood?

  • Do you feel constantly tired and fatigued?

  • Are you unable to get out of bed every morning?

  • Do you feel unhappy throughout the day?

  • Is hopelessness weighing your headspace?

  • Do you hear a lot of negative self-talk?

  • Have you been procrastinating lately with all deadlines?

  • Has your focus been off lately?

  • Are you feeling overwhelmed often with so much on your plate?

  • Are you always impatient and irritable?

If you answer yes to most of the questions, then revisit what’s causing you to feel bored. If it’s your job, evaluate your financial situation to switch to a newer role, or take time-off to explore a job and a culture that aligns with your values. Consider therapy alongside to release your emotional baggage and improve your mental health. Manoshala offers creative therapies through art, music, drama and body movement. Our experts will help in channelising emotions in healthy ways through doodling, sketching, body tapping, lyrics writing, role-play activities, storytelling, etc.

Final thoughts

Lack of mental stimulants, challenges and limited ability to make choices at work can contribute to boredom at the workplace. If you’re engaging in hobbies or exploring new jobs, boredom will melt away. However, if you’re depressed, boredom will not go away despite making all external changes. With psychotherapy methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and an individual's efforts, there is light at the end of the tunnel.



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