Motivation, a set of processes that trigger, guide, and maintain human behaviors towards achieving a goal, depends mainly on two factors:
- How the individual assesses his/her chances of succeeding;
- How important the success is to him/her.
There is the Internal or intrinsic motivation, which is based on motives that come from the individual himself and activate behaviors to achieve personal pleasure, satisfaction, or success; and the external or extrinsic motivation, which is based on motives that are influenced by the environment, and involve some kind of reward or punishment.
Lack of Motivation
Individuals diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder or illness are often related to by the environment as being limited in their abilities, even handicapped. Family and friends want to give the person time to recover from the acute phase of the illness (and hospitalization), enable him to get used to the medication, and to minimize pressure on him. This leads to a kind of legitimization of his non-functioning, and gradually and increasingly the person feels useless and redundant. Consequently, he/she loses the motivation to set goals for him-/herself and to do things. Sometimes the opposite reasons for lack of motivation in mentally coping individuals are the case: The environment expects a quick return to the situation as it was before the outbreak of the illness, which leads to failures and disappointments, and a consequent feeling of hopelessness of the individual.
How to Increase Motivation in the person suffering from a mental illness or episode
Communicate expectations that are appropriate to his/her situation, such as:
- Arranging the bed,
- Maintaining good personal hygiene,
- Helping clean the house or at least his/her room,
- Taking part in family events,
- Meeting friends, etc.
Be his/her ambassador outside (if he is hospitalized or hardly leaves the house):
- Tell him where you were and that he was missed;
- That people asked about him; and
- That you saw and/or did things that he would have enjoyed.
Show a lot of hope:
- Convey the message that there are many available options for support, work, studies, and entertainment activities.
Make use of or get him/her to use his qualities and skills:
- Computer/internet or other knowledge;
- Physical strength and height;
- Affection for people/animals, etc.
What to watch out for:
- Messages have to be clear and consistent over time: Both parents should agree on what they demand of their coping son or daughter. Don’t give in or give up, even if it is hard.
- Leave room for failures without lowering expectations.
- Don’t forget to CELEBRATE successes!
- Go on living YOUR own life. Conveying a positive attitude to life is contagious. 🙂
- Do things at home together: Watch TV, work in the garden, play a game…
- Don’t forget to tell and show him/her that you love him.
- Remind him of the things he used to enjoy: Riding his bike, playing cards with friends, eating ice cream, etc.
- Try to convince him/her to join you when you go out by telling him that chances are he will have fun, or by asking him to evaluate on a scale of 1 to 10 how much he thinks he will enjoy himself.
- Ask how you can help, don’t guess.
- Why don’t you go/do…?
- Why didn’t you…?
- Why don’t you want to…?
- Why can’t you…?
And most important:
- Don’t do things instead of him/her!
- Get support yourself to help you deal with the situation.
- Talk about it!
- Give yourself and him/her time.