Depression Could Be the Cause of Lack of Motivation

I’m in high school and unmotivated to do well in school – I don’t know what to do

DR. RUTHERFORD: This is a very interesting dilemma. Lack of motivation to do well can be caused by a number of things.

MOLLY: This was submitted by a high school student in Redwood City, California. He added that he tries “in school and in life” but feels like he can do a lot better. For example he knows he needs to study for the SAT test but despite knowing that, has no motivation to do his best. He added that he’s wondering if he and his Mom, who is divorced and “single handedly supporting (him) should see a therapist and if so, what type?”
He sounds like he recognizes that he has a problem but is “lost.”

DR. RUTHERFORD: Yes, I think “lost” is the right word. I would start out wondering if he’s worried about leaving his mother on her own if he goes off to college. What if he does well and leaves her behind on her own? It sounds like she’s been having a difficult time, especially about money issues. College costs lots of money; maybe he feels guilty using her money for school. If he doesn’t score well on the SATs and school testing, he won’t be going to college.

MOLLY: That’s interesting. What other things should be considered?

DR. RUTHERFORD: I think he might be depressed, which is contributing to his ‘paralysis of will’. We don’t know anything about his relationship with his father – does he financially contribute to the family, does he see his child regularly, is he a good role model for his son, etc. A father’s role is extremely important in a child’s life, particularly in role modeling successful behavior and encouraging that in his son – or, for that matter, a daughter.

MOLLY: Do you think he should see a therapist?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Absolutely! I feel strongly about the importance of him seeking some help. Intuitively, I think he needs to see someone without his mother, so that he can feel freer to talk about any guilt he may be experiencing as well as his depression. I think his Mom can certainly attend a session or so with him.

MOLLY: What kind of therapist should he see?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Someone familiar with treating kids his age who uses a psychodynamic approach. This kind of approach recognizes the importance of understanding feelings and motivations that are under the surface. Just telling him to do well won’t get too far, I’m afraid. He sounds depressed to me and perhaps feeling guilty, too.

MOLLY: Are there long term consequences for not addressing this issue now?

DR. RUTHERFORD: Without a doubt. He is unfocused about his future, even as he knows how important it to focus. He could miss the opportunity to go off to school and all that that implies. He certainly could do that later in his life, but he needs to work through this issue, no matter what. This kind of “paralysis of will” could follow him through much of his life, and that would be a real shame. It sounds like he has great potential.

ding 5 comments on “Depression Could Be the Cause of Lack of Motivation

  1. I’m wondering if he doesn’t feel challenged. I worked with one family who realized their daughter was bored because the school work didn’t stimulate or challenge her. When she was able to incorporate things she was interested in (ie, a research project for English based on her favorite book) she gained a new enthusiasm for getting things done.

    Something else may be his need to find a “good reason” to put in the work. For some teens, school is just one more thing adults tell them to do, and they don’t see that the payoff for good grades can open opportunities later. He may need to see an appealing “end result” to keep in mind in order to feel motivated to put the work in.

    Perhaps sitting down with a financial aid rep or the school counselor to help them discuss funding options and find scholarships would help relieve the concerns about college costs.

    • Amy – I like your idea about meeting with a financial aid rep or the the school counselor about funding aids for college. That might help him to focus and to feel less guilty about the money. He seems to recognize that he is impacting his future with his lack of motivation, which makes me think it’s more related to his home situation than his internal vision. In general, your observation about boredom and addressing this issue is right on.

  2. I think the fact the this boy is reaching out to you and asks a question about his “condition” is a huge plus and big step. It sounds like he recognizes the “problem” and is motivated to find a solution…He is open minded.

  3. Why does anyone feel lost or unmotivated? It is typically in response to a sense of separation from what we know, but what we have been taught and therefore know is not always accurate so we get further and further away from the truth of our being and how to live a more enjoyable life. When what we are taught is to pay attention to the messages of society around what life is supposed to be like, or what we are supposed to do to be successful, or who we are supposed to spend time with instead of being reminded that there is guidance always coming forth from within and how to understand it. That we are each created uniquely, with a unique combination of strengths and a powerful source that we need to continuously connect with to grow a positive mind; where the brain is wired to adhere to the heart’s wisdom. There are many paths to take to remind each other of this truth, focusing on the problems or our circumstances without the tools to bring forth one’s internal power and unique strengths is not an adequate support. School does not always touch on what is uniquely being called to express someone either, so consideration around what else is of interest to him is huge! Peace ~ Love ~ Joy ~ Hope ~ Gratitude ~ Truth

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