Crazy Talk is an advice column powered by your donations on Patreon, written by Sam Dylan Finch (that’s me!), and hosted by your fave queer blog, Let’s Queer Things Up! While I’m not medical doctor, I am a card-carrying member of Club Crazy, living the good life with a mood disorder, anxiety, and complex PTSD (gotta catch ’em all!). Talking all things mental health — trauma, happy pills, mood episodes, and whatever else you tweet me about. I’m kicking the stigma where it hurts, one question at a time.
Hey Sam. I mentioned to my new therapist that I’ve been bored to the point of making myself miserable. I thought that maybe I just needed to get a hobby (I don’t do much these days besides watch TV, probably doesn’t help) but she thinks I might be clinically depressed. How do you know this difference between “normal” boredom and actual depression? -Bored & Blue
Hi there Bored & Blue,
To start off, can I say how happy I am that you’re seeing a therapist? That, in and of itself, is a big step and will go a long way towards getting to the root of your boredom.
This is a really important question, one that I wish I’d paid more attention to back in the day. I never realized that boredom could be a symptom of depression, which would’ve helped me recognize it sooner rather than later. But like you, I just figured my boredom was the result of my own inaction — not a symptom of a bigger issue.
But your therapist is right in that boredom can be a red flag for folks that deal with depression! I think one way to parse out the difference is figuring out whether or not your boredom is responsive. In other words: Are you able to participate in activities that help alleviate it? Or does it linger no matter what?
I remember boredom being a really big feature of my last major depressive episode. I desperately wanted to find something to do to make it better, but I lacked the energy to get out of bed, and didn’t seem to enjoy the things that used to make me happy. You can imagine, then, the predicament I was in: Even if I did get a hobby, I wouldn’t have had the ability to participate or enjoy it — thus the boredom and subsequent misery was almost constant.
Boredom can be one of those early warning signs that can tip you off to an incoming depressive spell. Not all boredom coincides with depression (sometimes you really do just need a change of pace!), but persistent boredom almost always co-occurs with some kind of mental health issue.
Depression can sap the life out of you. Depression can take the things you used to be interested in or passionate about and make them feel dull as dirt. Depression can make you forget what it ever felt like to be happy or excited, replacing it with self-loathing and emptiness. Sound boring? It definitely can be. So it doesn’t really surprise me that many depressed people complain about being bored in the midst of an episode.
You described this situation as making you miserable. Yikes. Anytime you are describing your mood as “miserable,” some alarm bells should be going off. If this has been going on for longer than two weeks, almost every single day, there’s a very good chance that you’re dealing with some form of depression, especially if it accompanies these other symptoms.
No matter where this boredom is coming from, boredom signals that we might need to consider some life changes. Every one of us deserves a sense of fulfillment and variety, and without it, our mood can really suffer. A therapist can help you navigate how you can make some positive changes in your lifestyle to address this.
You talked about finding a hobby, and there’s no harm in that! But remember that there are other options, too. For me, in addition to finding a therapist, one way I found relief from my persistent boredom and sadness was starting an antidepressant. It made a huge difference! Once I had my energy and interest back, I was then able to pursue new activities and get out more.
A little homework: There’s a great video here covering ten different symptoms of depression in greater detail; I’d also recommend watching this video by my fave YouTuber, Marina Watanabe of marinashutup, about the sneaky nature of depression.
Remember that this process can take some time, so be sure to be patient and compassionate with yourself. This is the kind of elephant you’ll have to eat one bite at a time, or so to speak. I hope that you’ll keep going to therapy, keep an open mind, and keep advocating for your health and happiness — these are all excellent choices that will be beneficial to you whether you are clinically depressed or not.
All the best,