What is languishing?

Languishing: neither depression nor flourishing

Languishing: neither depression nor flourishing

Are you constantly weakened, lacking motivation, feeling empty, unable to enjoy life? It doesn’t have to be depression. In recent times, a new concept has emerged in the field of mental health that resonates with many individuals who may be experiencing a sense of stagnation and emptiness. This concept, known as “languishing”, has gained attention as people seek to understand and address their emotional well-being.

What is languishing?

Languishing can be described as a state of being in which an individual experiences a lack of motivation, focus, and a general sense of emptiness. It is characterized by feeling stagnant, disconnected, and devoid of purpose or enthusiasm in various aspects of life. Languishing can emerge during periods of prolonged stress, uncertainty, or when facing multiple challenges.

Languishing and flourishing

The concept of languishing was popularized by sociologist Corey Keyes, who introduced it as the opposite of flourishing, a state characterized by high levels of well-being and positive mental health. Languishing represents a middle ground between flourishing and depression / mental illness, where individuals are not experiencing severe psychological distress, but they are not fully functioning optimally either.

As the New York Times notes:

Research suggests that the people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now. And new evidence from pandemic health care workers in Italy shows that those who were languishing in the spring of 2020 were three times more likely than their peers to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Examples of languishing

Languishing can manifest in different areas of life, such as work, relationships, and personal development. For instance, a person might feel unfulfilled in their job, lacking the drive to pursue goals or find meaning in their daily tasks. In relationships, a languishing individual may feel detached or disengaged, finding it difficult to connect with others on a deep level. In terms of personal development, they may struggle with self-motivation and feel a sense of aimlessness or boredom.

Languishing: frequently observed symptoms

While symptoms of languishing can vary from person to person, some common signs include:


  • Lack of motivation and enthusiasm for activities previously enjoyed.
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing on tasks.
  • Feeling emotionally flat or numb.
  • Sense of emptiness or meaninglessness.
  • Decreased productivity and engagement in work or personal pursuits.
  • Increased irritability or restlessness.
  • Difficulty experiencing positive emotions

Differences between languishing and depression:

Languishing shares some similarities with depression, but it is important to distinguish between the two. Depression is a clinical condition characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. Languishing, on the other hand, is often a milder state and does not necessarily involve the same intensity or duration of symptoms. Individuals who are languishing may still experience moments of happiness or pleasure, whereas those with depression often struggle to find joy in anything.


Furthermore, while languishing may be a temporary state that individuals can recover from relatively easily with the right support and interventions, depression is a more severe and chronic condition that often requires professional treatment. 

How to deal with languishing?

Languishing can coexist with or directly lead to depression, so if symptoms occur – don’t ignore them and consider consulting a specialist! 


Can Kava Kava alleviate the symptoms of languishing?

Kava is believed to have a positive effect on the limbic system in the brain, so it can enhance feelings of satisfaction, joy and positive mood on a daily basis. 


There are also studies [ source ] indicating that Kava enhances the brain’s cognitive functions: it positively affects visual attention and short-term memory retrieval – which can help if we have trouble functioning at work, for example. 


Kava’s active ingredients – kavalactones – are considered MAO inhibitors [source], which means they positively affect dopamine levels, among other things. Dopamine deficiency can lead to a lack of sense of purpose, motivation, and purposefulness of action. MAO inhibitors are used in e.g. antidepressants.

As our understanding of mental health continues to evolve, the notion of languishing has gained recognition as a significant emotional state that many people experience. Recognizing and addressing languishing can help individuals take steps toward improving their well-being and finding meaning and purpose in their lives. If you or someone you know is languishing, seeking support from mental health professionals, engaging in self-care activities, and fostering social connections can be vital steps toward recovery and flourishing.

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