Written by Anna Zernone Giorgi | Published on October 8, 2013
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 8, 2013

What Is Boredom?

Boredom is a common feeling. Feeling unsatisfied by or uninterested in an activity causes it. Research suggests that boredom sometimes occurs when a person is feeling energetic but has nowhere to direct that energy (Markman, A., 2012). Boredom also occurs when a person has difficulty focusing on a task.

Boredom is a common complaint among children. In some cases, children may complain of boredom when they are uncomfortable dealing with their thoughts or feelings (LDCEC, 2009).

What Causes Boredom?

Individual children identify and experience boredom differently. For some children, boredom may occur due to:
  • inadequate rest, nutrition, or safety
  • lack of choice or control over their daily activities
  • low levels of mental stimulation
  • lack of coping skills necessary to keep themselves entertained
  • poor perception of time

Children engaged in an activity may become bored due to:

  • confusing instructions
  • fear of making a mistake
  • loss of interest
  • repetition of the activity for too much time
  • feeling unable to try new approaches to the activity

Who Is at Risk for Boredom?

Boredom is a common feeling; almost everyone experiences it from time to time.

Adolescents frequently experience boredom. This may be because as they are given more freedom to choose what to do with their time, they are still learning about themselves and their interests. Not knowing where to focus can cause boredom (Pickhardt, C., 2012).

What Are the Symptoms of Boredom?

Boredom is marked by an empty feeling, as well as frustration with that emptiness. People who are bored frequently have a limited attention span and a lack of interest in goings-on around them. People who are bored can sometimes seem apathetic and fatigued, and sometimes seem nervous and jittery.

How Is Boredom Diagnosed?

Boredom in Children
When boredom occurs frequently and interferes with your child’s ability to function normally, consult your child’s physician for an evaluation.

Some children can’t adequately describe their feelings. Symptoms of boredom can sometimes resemble depression. A bored child may want to be engaged; a depressed child may avoid being engaged. A mental health professional can work with your child to determine the exact diagnosis.

Boredom in Adults
Boredom is a normal response to some situations. But boredom that lasts for long periods or that occurs frequently may be a sign of depression. If boredom is interfering with your ability to complete necessary tasks or with your quality of life, you may want to consult with a medical or psychiatric professional.

The feeling of being “bored to tears” or boredom that includes the following complaints may also be related to depression (Deal, 2011):

  • blaming oneself as the cause of boredom
  • feeling hopeless
  • having a heavy feeling or feeling of sadness
  • evading opportunities for stimulation

How Is Boredom Treated?

Home Care

You can treat this condition in a child by helping him or her cope with feelings of boredom when they arise. When your child complains of boredom, encourage communication. Address the situation without questioning the validity of your child’s feelings.

You can get the best results from your efforts if you take time to guide your child in identifying the causes of the condition and finding creative solutions.

  • Don’t question whether your child should be bored when he complains.
  • Avoid responding to your child’s complaints with impatience or anxiety.
  • Ask open-ended questions to stimulate your child’s creativity in finding interesting solutions.
  • Be aware that your child’s complaint of boredom may be a request to engage your attention or participation in an activity.
  • Help your child identify an emotional issue or feeling that he or she may be identifying as boredom.
  • Help your child find an engaging activity (or find one you can participate in together).

What Is the Outlook for Boredom?

Boredom is a common problem for children and adults. Some boredom is unavoidable. Children who learn to deal with the condition can develop problem-solving skills for the future.

Preventing Boredom

You can prevent some cases of boredom by helping your child in the following ways:

  • Keep a record of the types of circumstances that cause your child’s boredom. Note the time of day, place, and activities preceding the complaint, so you can avoid them or at least be prepared for the outcome in the future.
  • Work with your child to create a list of activities to use when boredom strikes.
  • Establish a special area where your child can store activities reserved for battling boredom.
  • Be prepared to take time out to work with your child to set up an activity and establish precautions if necessary.
  • Make routine tasks more interesting by timing your child against the clock.
  • Combine two repetitive tasks so that they can be done together.
  • Break larger tasks into smaller sections with a break or reward at milestones.
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