Procrastinators Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from chronic procrastination.

How to distinguish procrastination and other problems

Before I found this board and did some research, I thought that there may have been a few things "wrong" with/imbalances in my life, but it turns out they were sub-issues of my procrastinating. For example, at one point I started feeling pretty low and did a little research on depression. The root of the matter was that I simply wasn't exercising consistently enough. The problem was that I was procrastinating on my exercise to the point of not doing it, which led to me not feeling as positive and energetic as I could. When I exercise I'm happier. Same with my eating habits-I am one of those "I'll eat healthily tomorrow" or "I'll go to the grocery store and stock up on healthy food tomorrow" types.  Again, same with my sleep pattern-"I'll go to bed early tomorrow". When I don't procrastinate, I feel great.

So how do you distinguish between issues like depression (or other problems) and procrastination? I feel like all of my issues revolve around my procrastination. None of them are deep enough to require therapy or treatment. I went to a therapist once who said that I didn't have anything diagnosable. Of course I don't know if this applies to everyone. And I realize that things like depression often aren't issues of "well I'll just take a lap around the block on a regular basis and never need medicine again!" So how do you tell?

Welcome Odette

Some theories of addiction suggest that addictions are basically dysfunctional coping mechanisms. So there are issues (uncomfortable emotions, memories, fears, resentments, etc) that the addict can't deal with, so they drink, act out, use or whatever in order to numb the pain or escape the pain.

According to this theory, addicts have underlying problems that are deeper than the addiction--whether it be a chemical addiction or a behavioral addiction. Some AA people say "I don't have a drinking problem, I have a life problem."

I have heard other people say "Nobody comes into a 12-step program on a winning streak." 

A big part of the solution in all 12-step programs (of which PA is one), is the act of working the steps with a sponsor. The steps aren't specifically ways to abstain from the drug of choice (procrastinating, in our case). The steps are about acknowleding powerlessness and unmanageablility, accepting a higher power, making and sharing an inventory of our lives, making amends for our wrongs, and working with other addicts. The AA Big Book (the first and probably the most important book for addicts using the 12-steps to recover) talks about how fear, resentments (anger), and anxiety are at the root of our addictions, and the spiritual solution as discussed in the book and carried out in fellowship with other addicts is the way to recover. 

So that's a round-a-bout way of saying that if you want to work the 12-steps to overcome procrastination addiction, you may come to see that there is something deeper at work fueling the addiction.

Thanks for your sharing, I look forward to hearing more from you!


If procrastination is a problem - then there is a problem

I think you raise a good question Odette. My answer would be that if there is some aspect of your own behaviour that is so outwith your own control that it is causing problems in other areas of your life, then that is a real problem - whether it has a "diagnosis" or not. I think for many people procrastination comes down to anxiety, possibly rooted in low self-esteem, resulting in fear of exposing oneself to criticism. The underlying anxiety can manifest itself in many ways of course: procrastination, depression or escapism thro drugs/ internet surfing / alcohol / or romantic literature according to taste. There does not have to be a hard line between one problem and another. 

It sounds like that therapist you spoke to was not very helpful. Perhaps it would be worth talking to another, if this is a problem you feel you are not making progress with by yourself?

All the best,


I talked to the therapist in

I talked to the therapist in high school, when I was worried about what college I would attend. That was four years ago, and I don't feel the need to see a therapist now. I was just feeling generally anxious about that large change in my life and we discussed everything under the sun and how I felt. I think she was helpful, but I agree with her-I don't need medication/counseling to function or anything.

Therapy, 12-step, etc

It can be tough to find a therapist who really listens.

I was at a therapist fairly recently who laughed off my problems with procrastination. I found that extremely demoralizing. 

I guess I will echo Hooch's comment: if procrastination is a problem, then there is a problem.

Most people don't log on to sites like this one on a winning streak.

You mentioned in your post that you can function without medication/counseling. I believe you. I can, too.

Have you heard the phrase "functional addict"?

This is an addict who might have a job, a car, a family, etc. Maybe she hasn't had terrible outward consequences from her addiction: no jail time, no lost jobs, etc.

Some in AA make distintions between low bottoms and high bottoms. The low bottom is the chronic addict who has lost everything and continues to use nearly to the point of death. The high bottom is the functional addict, the one who hasn't had all the terrible consequences. I am a high bottom: I finally reached out to a different twelve step program when I could no longer handle the pain and loneliness i suffered as a result of my addiction. I still had a job, a car, etc. I am not on medications and haven't had much counseling, but twelve step program has been the best thing I've done for myself in probably 20 years. 

@ Andy_b

Hi Andy,

I always enjoy reading your posts. That is terrible about the therapist. Why would you be seeking help if there wasnt a problem!?! What a fool.

I was lucky enough to find a Therapist (Psychoanalyst) who is helping me, altho it is a long slooowwww process (> 200 sessions so far). I was moving from 'more or less, at least outwardly, functional' to 'compeletely non-functional'.  For me it is a lifetime problem and there is no quick answer, but I do see that this is the way ahead for me. I hope you will find a more useful Therapist and are not discouraged.

v Best,


therapy, etc

Thanks, Hooch! I enjoy your comments, as well.

I'm so interested in analysis, but it is definately not covered by my insurance. It does have the reputation of taking longer than CBT, but with hopefully deeper insight and change.

I just started with a new therapist who is in my insurance network. It's only been two sessions, but I was disheartened to learn that she is most interested in cognitive behavioral therapies (she seems to think that deeper exploration can be satisfying, but doesn't lead to the kinds of change she likes to see in clients.) At least she takes my procrastination seriously.

Anyway, I live near a major university that has a well-regarded program for people who suffer from my OTHER behavioral addiction. I asked the new therapist if she thought it would be a good idea for me to pursue that option, and she definately thought that it was a good idea. It will take some work to get the insurance to cover it, but I think I will pursue it.

Also, I have been thinking of entering a six session drama therapy group in February. I like to do performance classes (improv, acting, etc), but I have noticed that I'm basically using the classes to do therapy on myself, so I thought I would give the art therapists a try. :)  


@ Andy_b

Hi Andy,

I am glad you found a therapist who takes your problems seriously. Sounds like that with the other program as well you will be in a good place to move forward. Drama therapy sounds good too, you will have to tell us how it goes.

Analysis is indeed interesting. Even tho as the patient it feels like my emotions are being wrung thro a mangle.

I read a paper that explored what successful therapists actually do, as opposed to what school they cleave to, and it found that aspects of analysis have become integrated into all kinds of therapy. I suppose it has become so integrated to our culture now that people hardly attribute it anymore. 

The insurance aspect is also interesting. It sounds like your insurance is quite good. Is that because you have some special insurance and not just the ordinary kind? (I am not sure how American health insurance works). 

v best,


choosing a therapist ... & treating a spiritual malady

I can really relate to the stories above, and have talked about my own struggle to find a therapist who can help me get to grips with my concerns in another post here.

There seems to be a real stigma around therapy and seeking this where I am currently ... stiff upper lip and all that. On the one hand it took me so many years to even get myself to a therapist, to help address my life that was becoming increasingly unmanageable due to both procrastination and fear, it was good to go with the first person that a counselling practice I contacted matched to me. For my situation I did ask for a male therapist during my initial diagnostic session, and was a bit surprised when female therapist contacted me, but once this was ironed out I was happy with the guy I got. And I have to be grateful how the process of therapy stabilised me.

One has to balance giving a therapy relationship time to ride out any bumps and see if it works out for both parties, with understanding when it might be to move on. I guess the serenity prayer and one's growing awareness and wisdom can help here.

My current therapist is the same gender and orientation as me, and funnily enough works in the area of addiction (though that's not why I originally chose to contact him), and he is open to using his knowledge of addiction to help me with my procrastination and compulsive task avoidance and to see if learning how to understand & break an addictive cycle could be a key to help me get better. (An addictive personality may be what is underlying my procrastination, I guess there may be different underlying causes for other procrastinators on their individual journeys to recovery.)

So for now a combination of checking into PA online & using the tools here, continuing weekly therapy sessions, plus regularly attending face-to-face meetings in another 12-Step fellowship and working the Steps with a flesh-and-blood sponsor, all seem to be helping and supporting me in my recovery from my procrastination and other addictions, as well as helping me to identify and realise that I may have and to hopefully heal a spiritual malady that seems to be underlying my compulsive behaviours, addictions, and acting out.

re: the difference

that's a really good question, Odette.

one fact is that several on this board over the last 4+ years i've been here struggle with, in addition to procrastination, one or more of the following.

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • perfetionism

those seem to be the most frequent co-symptoms.

As to how they're connected, i'm not sure.

Recently i have concluded for myself that i have an addictive personality. And my drug of choice is going off plan, doing unscheduled activities. Note it doesnt matter what the activity is, if i've scheduled myself to surf the web, i'll want to do something, anything else. It's about whether it was pre-planned or impulsive, not what the activity actually is. And i have other addiction like symptoms and other drugs i use to get high other ways. My drugs are not alcohol nor controlled substances, they're behavior based. So i am assuming that the addictive personality is what unites them all. But talk to me in a year and see if i still think that ;^)

the touch of the master's hand:

fall down seven times, get up eight - japanese proverb


bump addictive personality


I think the difference

I think the difference between procrastination and depression is that with procrastination you think, "If I had done this by then, then everything would have gone right", "Tomorrow I will start doing this, and then everything will be alright." and similar thought-patterns and also, if you actually do something you feel joyful at completion, while with a real depression you think that nothing can ever make it right again, and even if you do something, it's only because you should, and it gives you no joy to have done it. 
I have been down both lanes, having had a temporary (2 years) depression after my mother died, and I believe my procrastination only really set off after that. I think they are somehow linked, since I procrastinate on everything if I am feeling low for only one reason.   
Other feelings that I find are somehow derived procrastination are anxiety, panic-attacks and an extreme urge to divert oneself from thinking. 
You cannot run away from a weakness; you must sometimes fight it out or
perish. And if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?
Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894)