Listlessness – Causes, Treatment

Listlessness describes a persistent state of lack of energy, the cause of which can be various disorders or clinical pictures. Due to the variety of causes, a detailed medical history and individually tailored treatment are required. Milder forms of lethargy can be prevented and, under certain circumstances, cured without medical help, while more serious cases require medical attention.

What is listlessness?

Listlessness is a short-term or long-term condition characterized by a general lack of energy. In many cases, a person suffering from listlessness has an increased need for sleep.

He still cannot motivate himself to pursue everyday demands. The environment perceives the behavior of a listless person as lacking in initiative and lethargic. The person affected strives to complete daily tasks. However, he/she cannot bring himself to carry them out.

Lack of drive is sometimes announced by a milder form, the so-called lack of drive. The opposite of lack of drive is excess drive.

Lack of drive is not a disease, but a symptom. It can be due to various physical or mental disorders. Treatment therefore includes localizing the underlying disease and eliminating it.


The causes of listlessness are varied and range from short-term states of exhaustion to serious illnesses. Causes of short-term lethargy can be an incipient infection, temporary stress and lack of exercise .

Since listlessness usually leads to an increased need for sleep, one of the causes can be a lack of sleep . This often occurs in connection with high demands in everyday life and can expand into the so-called burnout syndrome .

Malnutrition can lead to the body missing important substances for energy conversion. A permanent lack of iron , vitamin B12 , folic acid or iodine can lead to listlessness.

Other possible causes may be depression , schizophrenia , or stupor. The latter refers to a state of rigidity while fully conscious. Stupor can occur as a result of major depression or schizophrenia. Addiction disorders can lead to listlessness, as can the side effects of some medications.

Diseases that affect the brain can also cause listlessness. These include dementia , strokes and meningitis . Tumors or other inflammations in the body can lead to listlessness, as can heart, liver or kidney diseases and diseases of the thyroid gland .

Diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & History

In order to be able to diagnose lack of drive, the doctor takes an anamnesis. For this purpose, possible causes are considered and the person concerned is asked about his economic and social situation. Medication and drug consumption as well as dietary habits are also discussed. A subsequent examination gives indications of physical disorders, such as B. Tumors.

The course of listlessness can be very different: if it is due to temporary disturbances, it usually disappears by itself after the disturbance has been eliminated. In serious cases, the listlessness can spread greatly. The affected person may then no longer be able to pursue basic physical needs, such as eating and drinking. The duration of listlessness is often related to the severity of the underlying disease.


Listlessness is the main symptom of depression and can also occur as a symptom of other mental illnesses. To a certain extent, not performing necessary activities can be seen as a “complication” or as a problem resulting from lack of drive. This leads to neglect of personal hygiene and, in extreme cases of listlessness, to neglect of food and liquid intake. This can result in various health problems.

There can be a loss of body weight and the affected persons can downright neglect. Of course, this does not occur in all cases of lack of drive, but only when the lack of drive is on the one hand the symptom of an illness and on the other hand is very pronounced. Various social problems can also arise from the pronounced listlessness. These include, for example, the loss of a job or the loss of partnership and friendships. This is due to the fact that the people concerned can no longer carry out any work of their own accord and thus neglect social obligations.

The problems of listlessness will get worse if the cause of the listlessness is not identified and treated. With treatment, an immediate improvement in the situation cannot be expected – this will take some time. Nevertheless, therapy for the underlying disease is necessary in any case in order to enable the person affected to be able to live their life independently. The ability to live a normal everyday life is gradually lost with lack of drive.

When should you go to the doctor?

In the case of temporary lack of drive, exhaustion or exhaustion, it is not always necessary to see a doctor immediately. However, if the condition persists for a longer period of time or keeps recurring, it is advisable to have the symptoms clarified by a doctor. The lack of drive may be due to a serious illness.

Indications of this can be symptoms such as night sweats, blood in the stool, irritated mucous membranes or problems with bowel movements, which accompany general exhaustion. It is also advisable to see a doctor if the symptoms cannot be treated with typical countermeasures such as sleep, a change in diet or exercise, or if the tiredness is particularly intense.

Affected people who feel restricted by the lack of drive in everyday life and at work or who feel concomitant depressive moods should consult a specialist. The same applies to unexplained fatigue attacks or exhaustion after non-strenuous activities. There may be a psychological problem that cannot be combated without outside help.

If listlessness occurs after taking medication or consuming drugs, a doctor can determine the causes and usually treat the problems quickly. In general, listlessness is a reason for a doctor’s visit if it occurs in children or otherwise apparently healthy people or if it develops gradually. A chronic development of the symptoms can usually be prevented by early measures.

Treatment & Therapy

Depending on which disease is causing the listlessness, the treatment is also very different.

Temporary forms may be cured with relaxation techniques and regular exercise in the fresh air. This can, in some cases, be extended to an entire lifestyle transformation. The aim is to provide the body with more energy and to replenish its reserves.

If there is a lack of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 or iodine, a corresponding preparation is administered in high doses. In addition, a doctor or nutritionist, in cooperation with the person concerned, can develop a nutrition plan that supports a balanced diet. Mental illnesses are usually treated with antidepressants , antipsychotics and/or psychotherapy .

In the context of psychotherapy, a therapist tries to work out and cure the causes of listlessness in cooperation with the person concerned.

In the case of physical illnesses, the respective clinical picture is usually treated with medication. In the case of tumor diseases, radiation and chemotherapy can be carried out as well as operations to remove the tumor tissue.

Outlook & Forecast

Lack of drive has various physical and psychological causes. However, their effects are largely psychosocial in nature. Those who suffer from listlessness no longer have the energy to carry out everyday tasks, which can lead to a number of problems in professional and private life. Even if professional tasks are managed and economic security is given as a result, listless people like to neglect their private lives and ultimately suffer as a result. They lose friendships and relationships with family members and run the risk of becoming lonely or developing problems such as depression.

In addition, lack of drive usually leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which ends in overweight if the diet is wrong or unhealthy . Since this in turn influences the hormonal balance of the person concerned, in many cases this worsens the already existing listlessness and it is very unlikely that the patient will be able to cope with his health problems without outside help .

Although listlessness can have consequences, that doesn’t mean that every occurrence of it has to be dangerous. In healthy people, there are occasional phases of lack of drive, which are caused, for example, by failures or a general rethinking of previous decisions and actions. These are normal and are part of a psychological process that people go through before they recognize problems and act accordingly. The resulting lack of drive must not become a permanent condition.


To prevent listlessness, it helps to ensure a good balance between exercise, rest and fresh air, as well as a varied diet. A balanced diet should contain enough iron, folic acid, vitamin B12 and iodine. Iodine is responsible for the optimal functioning of the thyroid gland, so a diet rich in iodine can prevent hypothyroidism .

Sport and exercise in the fresh air as well as plenty of daylight help prevent depression, which is a cause of listlessness. In the case of physical illnesses, regular consultation with a doctor is advisable.

You can do that yourself

Lack of drive can be very stressful in everyday life. However, those affected have a number of options for getting their listlessness under control through targeted planning of everyday life. On the one hand, structured planning of everyday life is a good way to start the day with organized thoughts.

Many listless people find it difficult to deal with their everyday life when they are faced with many points with unfinished business. They don’t know where to start and this only increases the problem of listlessness. It makes sense to give the day a structure with clear schedules and fixed schedules. On the other hand, those affected should make sure that they set small goals in everyday life. Nothing makes you less motivated than constantly thinking that you are faced with a mountain of unsolvable tasks. Small, achievable goals, such as a fixed half hour for clearly defined household chores, provide security.

If the point is made, the motivation increases to get through the day well. Lack of drive can often be reduced in everyday life by spending time in the fresh air. Body and soul benefit from exercise and oxygen . Even a short walk often helps to overcome a phase of listlessness.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.