Is Boredom Dangerous?

by Andrea Blundell
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Reached new levels of boredom in lockdown? And starting to worry about it?

Is boredom dangerous?

If I am bored should I worry?

For some people, boredom can inspire creativity and new goals. Research at the University of Central Lancashire found that boring activities like copying numbers out of a phone book led to bursts of creative thinking afterwards.

But if your boredom is leading to destructive habits or doom and gloom thinking, it might be time to pay attention.

Boredom and depression

Regular boredom can leave us antsy. But there is another kind of boredom that sees us feeling numb. It's as if we can’t even think, and our days start to look like staring at the wall.

This kind of boredom can be a sign you are careening towards depression, particularly if you have experienced mood problems before. Look for other signs of depression like:

Boredom and bad habits

In a study on South African teenagers, boredom was found to be the leading cause of smoking, drinking, and cannabis use.

Destructive habits have negative results. This can look like drinking or using drugs then feeling too bad to do our job the following day, food bingeing that leaves us physically ill, or calling an abusive ex and losing our self-esteem.

Boredom and addiction

And if those habits boredom drives you to are out of control? Somthing you think about often, and measure your days by? Or if the habit has negative effects on your career, relationships, finances, health, and/or family? You need to reach out for help with addiciton.

[*Already had issues with addiction, and finding the boredom of lockdown and our new pandemic world has you struggling? Read our piece on 'Addiction in Lockdown'].

Boredom and self-harm

The problem with having nothing to do is that all the thoughts and feelings we’ve kept busy to avoid are there waiting for us.

If we have healthy coping mechanisms it’s not a problem. We reach out for support, we allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel, we have productive ways to express our upset.

But many of us are taught to repress how we feel. We carry around our bad experiences like little bombs inside for years, or decades. Here we are in lovkdown, and they are itching around our mind.

For some people this can result in a habit of self-harm, using physical pain to temporarily distract yourself from emotional pain. Of course it doesn’t last, the pain returns, and you are stuck in a dangerous cycle.

Boredom, attention span, and sensitivity

A study from York University, Canada found that there are two types of personalities who are most likely to be bored. There are those who need constant stimulating experiences and who are impulsive. And those who are oversensitive and feel the world is a scary place, so withdraw and stay in their comfort zone, which gets boring.

Of course some people navigate life just fine if these are personality traits. Their jumping attention makes them a creative thinker, and their sensitivity makes them good with people.

But these things can also both be linked to childhood trauma, meaning your tendency to be bored is a sign of unresolved issues you need help with.

Attention issues can be related to complex PTSD and not just adult ADHD.

Impulsivity can be connected to borderline personality disorder, which in many cases links to trauma.

And oversensitivity can be a result of adverse childhood experiences or poor parenting that didn’t give you the acceptance and unconditional love a child needs to thrive.

Should I really care about boredom?

If you think you might be suffering from depression, a personality disorder, or unresolved trauma, then yes, you should care. Mental health issues affect our ablity to thrive and connect to others, meaning we live a sort of 'half life' of low self-esteem and loneliness. But we don't have to. Talk therapy really helps.

And if you are hesitating, note that boredom is even linked to higher death rates. An analysis of NHS data for civil servants aged 35-55 years old found a 30% higher mortality rate amongst those reporting a great deal of boredom.

Time to stop being bored and start being your interesting and worthy real self? Book a session now with one of our therapists and start talking your way forward.

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