I Am Losing Motivation at School

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Reader’s Question

Alright, so it has been probably two years since I started experiencing this. First, I became just a mediocre student. I didn’t feel like excelling, and it has been the same way until now. It’s not like I fail my subjects, but I could do better. I miss school at least once a week and stay at home.

I’m a 15-year-old guy, and I really want to know why I am acting like this. I want to go back to where I was. I feel it must be my school or something, and I’m sick of it. I don’t get bullied or anything. But I went from having lots of friends, who decided to change schools, until it narrowed down to just me. And now I’m sort of a loner. I feel like there’s such a negative energy in the whole school — and that’s also another reason for this — but I still don’t want to change schools. I want to finish my freshman year here; I am currently in my second year of junior high.

How can l change this?

Psychologist’s Reply

There could be several reasons why this is happening. It is impossible for me to know from one post, of course, what exactly has led you to where you are. What stands out to me is that you are unhappy, worried, or both, and you have reduced motivation to achieve academically or to connect with others.

You mentioned that you used to have friends but that they left for other schools, and that now you are a “loner.” This stood out to me as an important shift. Social isolation at any age can be difficult. However, in junior high and high school, peer relationships and social contacts — both at school and outside of school — are especially important. Being with a friend can help make a bad situation tolerable, and a good situation even better. It does not surprise me that you no longer look forward to going to school if you do not have other students with whom to talk, eat, and discuss the day. I would guess that this has at least something to do with why school no longer has a good feeling for you. As hard as it can be to meet new kids and make friends, having even one friend that you can count on could improve your overall feeling about school.

The other piece that I hear is that you have less motivation now than in the past with regard to your studies and attendance. This can happen for various reasons. As schoolwork becomes more difficult in the transitions from elementary to junior high, and from junior high to high school, students can become discouraged. Asking questions or seeking extra help at times becomes necessary. Projects and assignments become larger and more complex, and procrastination often becomes more pronounced. Students who were previously able to finish homework quickly or pass tests with little effort can become frustrated with the increasing amount of effort, planning, and attention required. Academic struggles can at times cause students to reduce the effort they put forth, as a way of managing stress or frustration.

These social and schoolwork demands can be the reason strong students begin to dread or avoid school. They can cause students to feel down about themselves and their future.

However, there is a chicken-and-egg issue at hand. While it is true that stressors, changes, and difficulties can cause mood problems, the opposite can also occur: a psychological problem, such as depression, can also be the cause of problems such as academic struggle, school avoidance, inconsistent attendance, social difficulty, and reduced attention and motivation. Depression symptoms can include sadness or irritability, lack of concentration, decreased enjoyment of previously pleasurable activities (which can include school and socializing), fatigue, sleep or appetite changes, and even suicidal thoughts. You did not mention these symptoms, but if you find that you have experienced them for two weeks or more, you might be suffering from depression.

Again, I can only provide broad information here, which may or may not apply to your situation. If you continue to struggle to make new friends and keep up with attendance and your grades, I would recommend that you speak to an adult who you trust, about what can be done to get you back on track.

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