The link between procrastination and mental health is less widely recognized.
Research has shown that procrastination can have a significant impact on mental health, contributing to anxiety and depression, and can also be a symptom of underlying mental health issues (source).
This topic is important to explore, as understanding the link between procrastination and mental health can help develop strategies for managing procrastination and improving overall well-being.
Is Procrastination A Mental Illness?
Procrastination is not considered a mental illness in and of itself. However, it can be a symptom of underlying mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In some cases, procrastination can also be a feature of other mental health conditions such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or bipolar disorder.
It’s important to note that procrastination is a common behavior and can affect anyone, regardless of whether they have a mental health condition. It becomes a problem when it interferes with daily life or causes significant distress. If procrastination is a persistent and pervasive issue, it may be worth seeking professional help to explore underlying causes and develop strategies for managing the behavior.
Procrastination, Stress And Depression
The relationship between procrastination and mental health is particularly evident in feelings of stress and depression, which can be both the cause and consequence of procrastination. Here is how procrastination can lead to anxiety and depression:
Feelings Of Guilt And Shame
These feelings contribute to both anxiety and depression. When we put off tasks that we know we should be doing, we may start to feel guilty and ashamed of ourselves. This can create a negative cycle, where we procrastinate even more to avoid those uncomfortable feelings, which only makes us feel worse in the long run. This cycle can lead to increased levels of stress, as we worry about our ability to complete tasks and meet our obligations. At the same time, it can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and despair, which are associated with depression.
Missed DeadlinesMissed deadlines and other negative consequences increase anxiety levels and cause feelings of distress, while also contributing to depression. When we procrastinate, we risk missing deadlines and other important milestones. This can lead to negative consequences, such as a lower grade on an assignment, a missed opportunity, or even losing a job. The fear of these negative consequences can increase anxiety levels and cause feelings of distress, which can make it even harder to take action and get things done. Additionally, the disappointment and self-criticism that follows can contribute to feelings of hopelessness and depression.
A Buildup Of TasksA buildup of tasks can be overwhelming and cause stress and depression. When we procrastinate on one task, it often means that we are also putting off other tasks that need to be done. Over time, this can lead to a buildup of tasks that can be overwhelming and cause anxiety. The more we put things off, the more stressed we become, which can make it even harder to take action and get things done. This feeling of being overwhelmed can contribute to both anxiety and depression.
Underlying health issues
Procrastination can also be a sign of underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety disorder or depression. These conditions can make it difficult to focus, plan, and prioritize, which can lead to procrastination.
In these cases, addressing the underlying mental health issues is key to reducing anxiety levels and improving productivity. At the same time, addressing the root causes of depression is necessary to reduce the frequency and intensity of procrastination.
Be alert of these signs:
- Lack of motivation: People with depression and anxiety often struggle with low motivation levels, which can make it difficult to get started on tasks. They may feel like there’s no point in doing something, or that they won’t be able to do it well enough. This lack of motivation can lead to procrastination, as they put off tasks because they don’t feel like doing them.
- Difficulty focusing: People with depression and anxiety may find it hard to concentrate or stay focused on a task. They may become easily distracted, or find themselves getting lost in negative thoughts and emotions. This can make it challenging to start or complete tasks, leading to procrastination.
- Fear of failure: People with depression and anxiety may be more prone to worrying about negative outcomes, such as failure or rejection. This fear of failure can be a significant obstacle to taking action, as they may worry that they won’t be able to do the task well enough or that it won’t meet their own or others’ expectations. This fear can lead to procrastination, as they put off tasks to avoid the possibility of failure.
- Overwhelm: People with depression and anxiety may feel overwhelmed by the demands of daily life, and this sense of overwhelm can make it hard to know where to start. They may feel like they have too much to do, or that they don’t have enough energy or time to do it all. This can lead to procrastination, as they may feel paralyzed by the volume of work and put it off as a result.
- Perfectionism: People with depression and anxiety may also be more likely to have high standards for themselves, leading to perfectionism. It may be challenging for them to begin a job because they might feel pressured to complete everything perfectly. Procrastination can result from the fear of doing something imperfectly, as the person delays starting the job until they are ready or have enough time to complete it perfectly.
I have written an interesting blog about letting go of perfectionism. If this is an issue for you, it might be an interesting read.
Strategies for managing procrastination
In another article, I have given 15 great tips to beat procrastination. If these strategies are not effective, it may be an indication of underlying mental health issues such as stress and depression. In such cases, seeking professional help from a therapist or mental health professional can be beneficial.
A therapist can help identify the root causes of procrastination and develop personalized strategies for managing it.
This may include exploring cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques, developing coping skills, or addressing underlying mental health concerns. It’s important to remember that managing procrastination and mental health concerns is a process and that progress may be slow and incremental.
Be kind to yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. Remember that with time, effort, and support, it’s possible to overcome procrastination and improve mental health. Recognizing when procrastination is a symptom of an underlying issue and seeking appropriate help is an important step in improving overall well-being.
If you are struggling with procrastination and mental health, consider reading “Solving the Procrastination Puzzle: A Concise Guide to Strategies for Change” by Timothy Pychyl. This book offers evidence-based strategies for managing procrastination and discusses the connection between procrastination and mental health. The author draws on research from psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics to offer insights into the nature of procrastination.
- Procrastination and Decision-Making: Overcoming Analysis Paralysis about procrastination and the fear of decision-making.
- 15 Great Tips to Beat Procrastination and Conquer your Goals is an article and checklist for people that would like to overcome procrastination.