Motivation Psychology Mental

Motivation is inextricably tied to mental health. Depression, for instance, is a chronic mental and physical disease that most of us associate with, among other things, a debilitating lack of motivation to do just about anything. But mental imbalance can cause excessive motivation, too, as it does when someone with bipolar disorder experiences a manic episode. The relationship between motivation and mental health goes both ways. Making an effort to keep your motivation high can foster healthy self-regard and be a weapon against bouts of depression.

Motivation and Depression

If motivation has an arch-enemy, it is depression. Some of the most common symptoms of clinical depression include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Fixation on failure
  • Indecisiveness and decreased focus
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Unexplained bodily pain.

In particular, these symptoms of depression stifle motivation levels, and the stronger these symptoms become, the lower your motivation becomes to accomplish your goals.

Depression sometimes has biological causes that are best treated with medication. The non-biological causes of depression, such as past failures or traumas, can be addressed with therapy and psychological exercises that focus on building motivation.

To build motivation, you can focus on what you have learned from past failures and apply those lessons to your attempts at new accomplishments. You can also keep a list of your small daily successes and read them to yourself the next morning. As your motivation increases, you should notice a simultaneous decrease in your symptoms of depression, and you can once again begin to work toward your grander goals — one small step at time.

Motivation and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is another condition that highlights the close relationship between motivation and mental health. People with bipolar disorder experience alternating periods of depression and mania.

During depressive periods, bipolar sufferers manifest most of the symptoms of major chronic depression, low motivation being one of them. Manic episodes cause people to experience a degree of motivation on the opposite end of the spectrum. Common symptoms of a manic state include:

  • Enhanced drive to perform or achieve goals
  • Extreme optimism
  • Increased physical energy and activity
  • Inflated self-esteem.

While these symptoms may not in themselves sound harmful, they can be so extreme as to cause the patients to engage in risky behavior, such as unwise spending sprees and careless sexual encounters. Mania also tends to cause difficulty concentrating and breaks in reality, so even though a person may try to accomplish great things, their endeavors tend not to go well. Work and school performances typically suffer while a person is in a manic state.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Depression (major depression). Retrieved September 20, 2010, from

Stevens, T. (2010). Unhappiness, depression, apathy, and low motivation. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Bipolar disorder. Retrieved September 20, 2010 from