Lack of drive: What helps against it?

Antriebslosigkeit: Was hilft dagegen?

Do you know the feeling of lack of drive? What if you just can't pull yourself together to get things done? And, although you already feel guilty and have two coffees to overcome your extreme tiredness, you still don't manage to be productive. This isn't laziness at all, because you don't feel good physically either. You are listless, without energy, listless and exhausted. In addition, concentration and attention disorders can become noticeable.

This article will help you understand lethargy and identify possible causes and signs. You can also expect helpful tips to get your listlessness under control again.

the essentials in brief

  • Lack of drive is the symptom of a drive disorder and is usually based on another illness.
  • The causes can vary greatly. In the case of long-lasting symptoms such as extreme tiredness, lack of concentration or indifference, medical advice should be sought.
  • Since lethargy can have many reasons, the root cause should be identified first. Only then is it possible to counteract this problem effectively.

Definition: What is listlessness?

Lack of drive is the symptom of a drive disorder and can occur in connection with a wide variety of causes and diseases. Lack of drive itself is not referred to as an illness, but is merely the symptom of other underlying illnesses.

Lack of energy, physical exhaustion, inner restlessness, sleep disorders, or even emotional barriers can even be the first signs of depression. In extreme cases, those affected lose all initiative and do not show any goal-oriented behavior. (Image source: Vladislav Muslakov/ unsplash)

Drive means the will and the ability to act in a goal-oriented and conscious manner. The listlessness is a psychological weakness that does not allow the person concerned to start the day full of energy and enthusiastically.

If listlessness becomes a permanent condition, it is high time to acknowledge this, identify possible reasons and actively counteract them before it is too late.

Background: What you should know about listlessness

Before we show you how to counteract listlessness, you should understand some important background information. In the following paragraphs we have answered the most frequently asked questions.

Who is affected by listlessness?

Lack of drive can happen at any age, from toddlers to the elderly. Adolescents and young adults are not excluded either. The reason for this is the variety of causes. For example, listlessness due to a deficiency can also occur in connection with an illness.

However, older people and those affected by dementia are particularly vulnerable. Even animals can suffer from lethargy. For example, dogs can also struggle with it.

At what point is listlessness a concern?

Lack of drive can occur in isolated cases, triggered by emotional or psychological stress. However, as soon as you are permanently struggling with it and are already noticing negative effects in your environment or life, it is imperative to do something about it.

Sleep disorders can also lead to permanent fatigue and reduced productivity. Mental or physical stress is usually the cause. In the case of permanent complaints, psychosocial causes should be considered in addition to somatic ones. (5)

If you wait for the signs too long, it can have fatal consequences in all areas of life. In extreme cases of a drive disorder, everyday things such as shopping, cooking, brushing your teeth are a big challenge. At the latest when your partner or even your own children have to suffer from it, you should ask for medical advice. The first signs could be crying for no reason, an irregular diet or a severe drop in performance at work.

How do I notice lack of drive?

The signs of listlessness vary from person to person. We have listed the most common symptoms for you.

  • listlessness
  • exhaustion
  • indifference
  • irritation
  • fears
  • sadness
  • depressive moods
  • Problems falling asleep and staying asleep
  • severe fatigue
  • lack of concentration
  • emptiness in the head
  • loss of libido

If several of these signs apply to you, you should definitely change something about your current situation. Furthermore, listlessness can also occur in combination with weight gain, irritable bowel syndrome or tremors.

What causes listlessness?

Lack of drive can occur for a variety of reasons. We have categorized these into four sub-topics.

  1. physical causes
  2. hormonal causes
  3. psychological causes
  4. environmental influences

1. What are the physical causes?

In the case of permanent lack of drive, there is often another underlying disease. ADHD sufferers, stroke patients or people with tumors and Parkinson's sufferers can suffer from listlessness. Other physiological causes are listed in the table below.

physical cause Explanation
metabolic disease In the case of metabolic diseases, drinks and food cannot be digested properly because an important enzyme is defective. Only one or several metabolic pathways can be disturbed. One of the most well-known metabolic diseases is hypothyroidism. In addition to exhaustion, nausea, diarrhea, difficulty concentrating, increased thirst, digestive problems, unwanted weight gain or gastrointestinal cramps can be indicators of a metabolic disease.
diabetes Diabetes is also a metabolic disease that is often associated with depression and thus listlessness. Diabetes sufferers suffer twice as often from depressive moods as healthy people. On the one hand, the challenges such as constant measurement, injections or the fear of hypoglycaemia can affect the psyche. On the other hand, it is known that depressed people are more likely to develop diabetes because they pay less attention to their diet, regular exercise and themselves.
nutrient deficiency A nutrient deficiency usually occurs due to malnutrition. Important vitamins and nutrients are not taken in in sufficient quantities. Common deficits in listlessness are iron deficiency, vitamin deficiency, especially vitamin B12, too little folic acid or iodine deficiency. For example, a permanently low or missing intake of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12 can lead to anemia. As a result, too little oxygen is transported into the body and thus performance also falls. A lack of vitamin B-12 is often associated with cognitive weaknesses. Older people in particular should ensure a high intake of vitamin B-12. (3)
diseases of the brain Strokes, dementia or meningitis can also be causes of listlessness.

2. What are the hormonal causes?


A change in hormone balance and thus hormone production can have a negative effect on mood. Estrogen and progesterone production is reduced, which can lead to a persistent low mood.


During our menstrual cycle we go through different phases, which usually also affect our mood. The first half of the cycle is also referred to as the follicular phase, in which estrogen, the mood-enhancing hormone, is increasingly produced. Women also feel full of energy and just fine around ovulation. In the second half of the cycle, estrogen levels level off and progesterone is increasingly produced. Tiredness, mood swings or irritability often occur at this time.

During menstruation, the hormone production of both hormones falls and can even worsen the symptoms of the second half of the cycle. Of course, the extent of mood swings varies from person to person. In women who take the pill, these can also be completely absent. Studies have shown that mood swings are very dependent on the general condition of women. Extremely brooding and anxious women show a higher irritability in the second half of the cycle. (4)


The pill has a strong influence on hormone balance. Not every woman reacts the same to every pill. In any case, it is certain that the pill can lead to tiredness, listlessness, loss of libido and even depression and an increased risk of suicide. The exact possible side effects of the pill are described in the package leaflet. (2)


The use of hormonal contraception, particularly in adolescents, has been associated with later use of antidepressants and initial diagnosis of depression. This suggests depression as a possible adverse effect of hormonal contraception. (Image source: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition/ uns-lash) (2)

3. What are the psychological causes?

Lack of drive can be the sign of a mental illness such as a psychosis, depression or burnout. A person feels increasingly overwhelmed and believes that they can no longer fulfill their tasks satisfactorily. Those affected feel increasingly overwhelmed with their lives and need outside help.

If the following criteria apply to you, it could be a psychological cause.

  1. Long-term irritability and depressive moods
  2. dwindling interest in family, friends, and the environment
  3. lack of joy, passion and enthusiasm for hobbies
  4. possibly suicidal thoughts
  5. loss of libido
  6. weight gain
  7. sleep disorders

If these criteria apply to you, you should discuss this with your family doctor and find out about further steps.

4. Which environmental influences can play a role?

Everyday environment, environmental influences and lifestyle can cause listlessness. The following table gives you a good overview of various factors.

Caused Explanation
sleep disturbance Everyone is probably familiar with problems falling asleep and staying asleep. If these occur over a longer period of time, the body lacks valuable regeneration time. This can lead to extreme tiredness, listlessness, lack of concentration and lack of drive.
Nourishment Variety and a balanced diet normally provide you with almost all the substances your body needs. With strongly one-sided nutrition, which can also be the case with diets, there are often nutrient deficiencies. These can also make themselves felt through exhaustion and lack of energy.
lack of exercise Sport gets our circulation going, boosts our digestion and this way we release endorphins. Those who move very little often feel sluggish.
seasons Even seasons can cause listlessness. You may have heard of the winter blues or winter depression, which only occurs in the fall or winter.
constant, extreme stress If we are under stress for a short time, this is normally not a problem for our body. On the contrary, it can even improve our focus and increase our performance as long as it doesn't become permanent. If the recovery phases are missing, the body is overloaded and runs on the back burner, which can lead to health and psychological consequences. Stress can arise at work/study or be triggered by a stressful relationship.

Lack of drive: What can I do about it? When do I need professional help?

Note the following tips to counteract or prevent listlessness and to recognize when professional help is needed.

How can I counteract listlessness?

As already described, listlessness can have a wide variety of causes. If you rarely or only recently feel listless, the following tips will definitely help you.

Tip 1: Prevent listlessness

Bring variety into your life. With many one-sided activities or a restricted diet, there is often a lack of balance.

  1. Healthy and varied diet: Your body needs energy, vitamins, minerals and nutrients every day. Be careful when and what you eat.
  2. Enough exercise: Outdoor sports not only lift your spirits, but also stimulate your circulation and metabolism. You also have time to rearrange your thoughts and gain some distance from the otherwise stressful everyday life.
  3. Relaxation phases: Your body needs time to recharge its batteries. For example, a short yoga session, a meditation or an exciting book can help the body to wind down.

Tip 2: Recognize that you are struggling with listlessness

Admitting that something is wrong or that you have a problem plays a central role. Only then are you open to new solutions and can actively do something to counteract listlessness.

It can also help to talk about lack of drive and write down your thoughts to get yourself positive again.

Tip 3: Rethink your lifestyle

The following aspects must be considered for a healthy lifestyle. Some will already look familiar to you.

  • Restful sleep: Many people suffer from sleep disorders, which can affect their mood, concentration and performance. If you're having trouble sleeping, try to figure out what's causing it. For example, drinking too much coffee or eating late in the evening.
  • Relaxation phases : As already mentioned, the body needs time to wind down. Grab a book, do yoga, or listen to a meditation. (1)

Yoga connects mind and body and is even used as a complementary treatment option for patients with depressive disorders. (Image source: Stephanie Greene/ unsplash) (1)

  • Balanced diet : It is generally recommended to eat five servings of fruit and vegetables, as well as dairy and whole grain products daily. The vegetables should not be steamed for too long, otherwise valuable vitamins will be lost. Eggs and meat also contain valuable nutrients. (3)
  • Healthy Relationships : Even prolonged emotional stress can lead to lethargy. It can help to make a mind map with everyone in your life, you are the center. Add a symbol to each person who is troubling you emotionally. Try to resolve your conflicts with these people.
  • Movement : This point has already been mentioned. Move enough to start the day fresher, more energetic and more motivated.

Tip 4: Deficits that can cause listlessness

A lack of vital substances can cause listlessness. Make sure you get enough of the following nutrients. A lack of the following nutrients can be the cause of listlessness, listlessness and tiredness:

  • Iron : Iron deficiency is a relatively well-known health problem that often goes undetected. Signs can be neurological and psychopathological problems such as difficulty concentrating or tiredness. Furthermore, iron is involved in many important metabolic processes in the body. (6)
  • Vitamin D : A vitamin D deficiency is also associated with increased fatigue, especially in patients with SLE. Adequate vitamin D intake is therefore essential. (7)
  • Vitamin B (B6, B12) : Vitamin B12 is one of the essential vitamins that affects various systems in the body, including the central nervous system. It also plays a major role in the metabolism of the nervous system. Children between the ages of zero and eighteen show the following symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency: syncope, dizziness, tingling sensations, blurred vision, tiredness and poor concentration. After a vitamin B12 supplementation, these symptoms could improve after just one month. (8) Folic acid also belongs to the vitamin B group and is crucial for the regeneration and new formation of cells and blood. In addition, vitamin B12, B6 and B2 are involved in the breakdown of homocysteine.

Tip 5: Which natural remedies can help?

In addition to the above tips, TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), homeopathy, Schuessler salts or globules can of course also be used. Essential oils and St. John's wort can also have a positive effect.

When do I need professional help?

If the above tips don't help, the reason is more complex. This can vary greatly, which is why the root cause must be identified. For example, it can be an underactive thyroid or another physical cause. Equally well longer, ongoing stress and a lack of balance can be the cause.

If you already suffer from previous illnesses or are struggling with depressive moods, seek professional help.

Especially if you have been struggling with symptoms of listlessness for a long time or if negative effects are noticeable in your environment. In this way, the actual cause can be treated in a targeted manner and you will feel better again in a short time.


Lack of drive can have many reasons. It is important to identify the root cause first. If a healthier lifestyle does not improve after another two to three weeks, professional help must be sought.

Once the core problem is identified, targeted treatment or therapy can be prescribed. Permanent lack of drive often appears as a side effect of another underlying disease, such as hypothyroidism, or a mental illness.

Finally, arguably the most important step is to admit that you have a problem and need help. If you continue to ignore these signs, it can have negative consequences in all areas of life. You are the designer of your life and you can change something about it at any time.


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  2. Skovlund CW, Morch LS, Kessing LV, Lidegaard Ø. Association of Hormonal Contraception With Depression [published correction appears in JAMA Psychiatry. 2017 Jul 1;74(7):764]. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016;73(11):1154-1162. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.2387
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  7. Nguyen MH, Bryant K, O'Neill SG. Vitamin D in SLE: a role in pathogenesis and fatigue? A review of the literature. lupus 2018;27(13):2003-2011. doi:10.1177/0961203318796293
  8. Serine HM, Arslan EA. Neurological symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency: analysis of pediatric patients. Acta Clin Croat. 2019;58(2):295-302. doi:10.20471/acc.2019.58.02.13
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