Lack of motivation: common causes, related health conditions, and more

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on December 16, 2019. Written by Caitlin Boyd. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Feeling low on motivation recently? Low motivation can directly affect your quality of life. You may struggle to exercise, stick to a healthy diet, or take care of household chores. So if you're wondering what causes lack of motivation, you’ve come to the right place: here, you’ll learn about possible reasons for low motivation, helpful tips, and more.

Common causes of lack of motivation

Mental health conditions

If you have certain mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), you may find it hard to enjoy your daily tasks. These mental health conditions often trigger fatigue, sleeplessness, or trouble concentrating. These symptoms can drain your motivation and make it difficult to get through the day.

Fortunately, treatment can help enhance your quality of life. If you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other mental health conditions, speak with your healthcare provider and/or a mental health professional. The right treatment (which may consist of psychotherapy and medication) often improves energy levels and boosts motivation.

Hormone imbalances

The hormones in your body act as chemical messengers. They send important signals throughout your body and regulate many physical functions. Hormones can affect your weight, appetite, energy levels, and sex drive.

But an imbalance in certain hormone levels can affect motivation. If your hormones are imbalanced, you may also feel tired or have trouble sleeping. Many people with hormone imbalances also report weight gain, hair loss, or a reduced sex drive.

In both men and women, low testosterone can be a common culprit for diminished motivation. To easily check for low testosterone without the inconvenience of heading over to a lab, consider taking the Everlywell at-home Men’s Health Test or Women’s Health Test.

Emotional exhaustion or occupational burnout

Lack of motivation can sometimes be linked to issues in your personal life that cause emotional exhaustion, or result from job burnout. To cite a couple of examples, if you feel stuck in an unhappy marriage, or if you're constantly stressed out at work, your motivation may be blunted.

A therapist or counselor can often help you work through these challenges. By digging deeper into the psychological factors behind your emotional exhaustion or occupational burnout, they may be able to identify cognitive strategies you can use to reframe your outlook to one that is more balanced and resilient.

Depression

People with depression often find it hard to find the motivation to carry out daily activities. Even getting out of bed can be a challenge for some people experiencing depression. Depression often affects every area of your life, including your physical health.

Signs of depression include:

  • Unintentional weight changes
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Insomnia
  • Feeling guilty, ashamed, or hopeless
  • Lack of interest in usual activities
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Left untreated, depression can significantly reduce one’s quality of life. If you suspect that you struggle with depression, consider speaking with a mental health professional as soon as possible. The SAMHSA National Helpline also offers free, confidential guidance for people struggling with mental health conditions. To learn more about available services, call 1-800-662-HELP.

ADHD

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is often diagnosed in childhood, but many adults with ADHD were never diagnosed in childhood and don’t know they have it. ADHD causes changes in brain activity, which may alter one’s motivation to achieve goals.

Adults with ADHD may feel like they're always "in trouble" with their employers, partners, or friends, and many people with ADHD feel unable to change their behavior, no matter how hard they try.

Fortunately, however, treatment often helps people with ADHD find relief from their symptoms, allowing them to take on more goal-getting actions.

Low testosterone

Testosterone is an essential hormone that affects both men and women. This hormone helps your body maintain muscle and bone mass. It also plays a crucial role in your sex drive and energy levels.

People with low testosterone may have:

  • Depression
  • Low self-confidence
  • Poor concentration
  • Sleep issues
  • Lowered energy levels
  • Increased body fat
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Low sex drive
  • Brittle bones

If your testosterone levels are too low, you might feel exhausted or depressed. These symptoms can make it hard to stay active or enjoy your favorite activities.


Wondering about your testosterone levels? You can conveniently check your testosterone from the comfort of home with the at-home Testosterone Test.


Seeking medical care for lack of motivation

Many health conditions can be responsible for low motivation. If you're not sure what's causing your symptoms, your healthcare provider can perform an in-depth evaluation.

Your provider may screen you for mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or ADHD. They may also suggest specialized tests that can help identify hormone imbalances or other issues.

Once your provider (or a specialist) makes a diagnosis, they can recommend a treatment strategy that helps you enjoy greater motivation and self-esteem.

Tips to help improve motivation

  • Many people find it helpful to meditate or write in a journal. These activities can help you learn how to focus better and identify negative feelings or sources of stress.
  • Keeping a schedule can help you stay focused. Create a list of tasks for each day and check each one off as you complete it. Marking off each completed task can boost your motivation and self-esteem. Checklists also help you track progress toward your goals.
  • Diminished motivation can sometimes be a sign of fatigue or a poor diet. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle (including regular exercise and a well-balanced diet) can make it easier to stay motivated.
  • Avoid heavy drinking as this can drain your motivation.

Common questions about lack of motivation

What are the signs of low motivation?

Lack of motivation can show up in many different ways. You might find it hard to start or finish projects. You may also find yourself skipping school or work or frequently canceling plans with friends and colleagues.

Can I fix my lack of motivation?

Low motivation often isn't permanent, and various treatments exist that target the causes of a diminished drive (your healthcare provider can help determine which treatment is best for you). Medication and therapy, for example, provide significant relief for many people—who find it easier to accomplish their goals after treatment.

What's causing my lack of motivation?

Lack of motivation has many potential causes. Your healthcare provider can help you get to the root of your symptoms. Hormonal issues, like low testosterone, are often to blame. To check if you have low testosterone, you can take the Everlywell at-home Testosterone Test. This test only requires a saliva sample, and everything you need to collect your sample and send it to a lab for analysis is included with the kit (including a prepaid shipping label).

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More