66450493762f2220671669 - Procrastination and childhood trauma

Procrastination and childhood trauma

Procrastination and trauma: understanding the causes and strategies for overcoming them

Procrastination is a common problem affecting many people and often leads to considerable distress and helplessness. While it is usually attributed to laziness or lack of motivation, procrastination can have deeper roots, especially in people who have experienced trauma. The key message here is that procrastination is never about things or actions but ALWAYS about unwanted or overwhelming feelings. It is a form of avoidance and escape. Understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying procrastination due to trauma can provide valuable insights and effective strategies for overcoming this challenge.

The psychological roots of procrastination

  1. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a significant factor in procrastination. Many people believe it is not worth tackling a task if they cannot complete it perfectly. This mindset often stems from early experiences where caregivers or authority figures set excessively high standards, leading to the belief that love and acceptance depend on flawless performance. Over time, this can lead to a paralysing fear of failure, causing the individual to delay or avoid tasks altogether.

  1. Boredom and dopamine deficiency

Procrastination can also be linked to boredom and a natural lack of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for the reward response, and individuals with low dopamine levels may have problems with motivation and the ability to start tasks. Chronic boredom, especially when used as a defence mechanism to avoid judgement or criticism, can exacerbate procrastination.

  1. Isolation

Research shows that the tendency to procrastinate is often mitigated by external motivation. Both children and adults are more likely to take action when they are held accountable and supported by others. However, trauma can lead to self-isolation, creating a cycle in which the lack of external support and interaction perpetuates procrastination. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can further reduce motivation and increase the tendency to procrastinate.

  1. Overload

The feeling of being overwhelmed is a common trigger for procrastination. When tasks seem insurmountable, it can lead to decision paralysis, where the sheer number of options and steps associated with a task leads to inaction. Added to this is the constant barrage of information and choices in today’s digital age, which leads to a feeling of overwhelm and a subsequent retreat into procrastination.

  1. Fear

Anxiety is closely linked to procrastination. The fear of making mistakes, falling behind or being judged can trigger severe anxiety, which in turn leads to avoidance behaviour. Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart, sweating, and shortness of breath, can exacerbate the tendency to procrastinate and create a vicious circle that is difficult to break.

Strategies for overcoming procrastination

  1. Recognise and question perfectionism

It is essential to understand that perfection is an unrealistic goal. Instead, focus on progress and effort rather than flawless results. Setting realistic goals and allowing yourself to make mistakes can reduce the fear of failure and help you take the first step towards completing a task.

  1. Increase in the dopamine level

Engage in activities that naturally increase dopamine levels, such as regular exercise, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks can also provide a sense of accomplishment and give you the dopamine boost you need to keep going.

  1. Seek social support

Building a support network can provide the external motivation to overcome procrastination. Share your goals with friends or family members who can hold you accountable and encourage you. Joining groups or communities with similar interests can also reduce feelings of isolation and increase your motivation to take action.

  1. Coping with excessive demands

To combat the feeling of being overwhelmed, you should divide tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Prioritise and focus on one thing at a time. Tools such as to-do lists and planners can help you organise your thoughts and find a straightforward way to reduce the feeling of overwhelm.

  1. Fight fears

The use of mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help to manage anxiety. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and progressive muscle relaxation can reduce physical symptoms of anxiety and create a calmer state of mind. Cognitive behavioural strategies, such as questioning negative thoughts and rethinking, can also help to minimise anxiety-related procrastination.


Procrastination is a complex behaviour that often underlies deeper psychological issues, especially in people who have experienced trauma. By understanding the underlying causes and applying targeted strategies, it is possible to overcome procrastination and regain control of your life. Building self-compassion, seeking support and breaking down tasks into manageable steps are essential to overcoming procrastination and achieving personal and professional goals.

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