Boredom Can Cause Stress and Depression
“BOREDOM can be one of the most crushing, grinding stresses which humans experience.” So reports Dr. Jay Shurley, professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma, in an article in Elle magazine. “Boredom,” he said, “is the uncomfortable, quite unpleasant feeling that something is not right with our lives. It’s a request for stimulation of a particular kind, a signal that our needs are not being met, a feeling of being trapped. It’s very stressful, and it can lead to a variety of problems—depression, drug use, psychosomatic illness, or something as simple as sleeping a lot to escape the boredom.”
Dr. Shurley’s research on the causes and the effects of boredom was part of a five-year project in the Antarctic. One of his more startling observations was that boredom can initiate a vicious circle. It can engender great stress in a person. Stress, in turn, can cause boredom that then creates even more internal stress.
The effects of this boredom-stress cycle can be devastating. Dr. Shurley claims: “Many divorces result from a husband or wife being bored with a job, bored now that the kids are gone, bored with a dull social life, but who can’t or won’t face the fact that the problem is basically personal.” So the bored mate divorces and “finds someone new, and for a while that solves the problem. For a while. Then it’s back to square one.” Yes, boredom once again plunges the individual down into the doldrums.
“The human mind,” said Dr. Shurley, “is hungry for change, challenge, learning, and new experience. Variety isn’t the spice of life. It’s the stuff of life.” In this connection, Dr. Shurley explained why the rich have special problems with boredom. “They can have almost anything they want. But for something to be truly satisfying, it has to be worked for, worked up to. When nothing is really challenging, even the most glamourous, privileged existence is boring—one reason so many people in this situation turn to drug use.”