Laziness: The Harmful Effects of the Term “Lazy” on Mental Health

By: Rebecca Fernandez

               “Lazy” is a common uncomplimentary term in modern vocabulary for when someone is unproductive. Think back to a time a group member failed to pull their weight in a group project, or a time someone procrastinated severely, leaving everything for the last minute and creating a poor final product. Consider even a time where you witnessed someone who, by early afternoon, was seemingly unable to bring themselves to get out of bed to start the day.

Whether it was yourself or someone else that you imagined, it’s easy to write off everyone in those examples as lazy. However, there’s a major issue with doing that – “laziness” is often not the cause of these situations. Rather, many mental health conditions can create issues that simulate behaviors identical to laziness.

Take, for example, disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and other mood disorders, insomnia and other sleep disorders, and anxiety disorders including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Each of these conditions can negatively impact a person’s ability to be productive, making them appear lazy. People with ADHD can often find themselves imagining all of the tasks they could be engaging in at once and becoming so overwhelmed they feel almost paralyzed. People with depression and other mood disorders often lack the mental energy to accomplish anything. Similarly, people with insomnia and other sleep disorders often lack the physical energy to accomplish anything. People with GAD may have a crippling fear that they won’t be good enough at something, preventing them from attempting to do the task in question. People with OCD may have a crippling (rational or irrational) fear that something bad will happen if they do specific things, preventing them from doing those things.

               All of these explanations are generalized and therefore may not apply to everyone with each listed disorder, or be the only applicable factor for each disorder’s effect on laziness. However, if you or someone you know has been consistently labeled as lazy, remember that “laziness” is often more than how it appears on the surface, and that actively struggling with mental health does not make a person a failure.

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of “laziness” as described above that are getting in the way of day-to-day life, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit

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