What is apathy?
Apathy is a lack of interest in life activities and/or interacting with others. It can affect your ability to keep a job, maintain personal relationships, and enjoy life.
Everybody experiences apathy from time to time. You may occasionally feel unmotivated or uninterested in daily tasks. This type of situational apathy is normal. Apathy becomes more dangerous if you have a chronic condition and are unmotivated to treat it.
Apathy is a symptom of a number of neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It also can be a syndrome in and of itself.
How common is apathy?
Apathy is extremely common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Which signs and symptoms can apathy usually be associated with?
Related signs and symptoms include:
- Lack of motivation
- Low energy level
- Diminished emotions, motivation, and willingness to act
Apathy may cause you to express disinterest in many aspects of life. You may be indifferent when you meet new people or try new things. You may show no interest in activities or in addressing personal problems or concerns. Your facial expressions may not appear to change. You may exhibit a lack of effort, planning, and emotional response. You may also spend more time by yourself.
Continued apathy can affect your ability to maintain personal relationships and perform well at school or work. If you suffer from apathy, you may find yourself wasting time by vegetating in front of the TV, playing video games, or mindlessly surfing the Internet —knowing full well that there were much better ways to occupy yourself but, feeling run-down or washed-out, unable to prevent yourself from frittering away your time. You may also stop exercising and start indulging yourself with “comfort foods” of very little nutritional value.
Apathy is not the same as depression. It can be a symptom of depression along with disinterest. Depression may also cause feelings of hopelessness and guilt. Serious risks associated with depression include substance abuse and suicide.
What causes apathy?
Causes of apathy can include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Dysthymia or chronic mild depression
- Frontotemporal dementia
- Huntington’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Progressive supranuclear palsy
- Vascular dementia
Research has shown that apathy is quite prevalent in dementia. Specifically, one study found that 56 percent of the study’s participants with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis were apathetic while 72 percent of the participants with frontotemporal dementia demonstrated apathy. Apathy is also common in progressive supranuclear palsy and vascular dementia.
Increased apathy has been correlated with a decline in functioning, such as in activities of daily living and in cognition in those with dementia. The brains of those who demonstrate apathy also show greater changes, including greater atrophy, neurofibrillary tangles, and white matter changes.
Apathy has been tied to the development of dementia in those who have Parkinson’s disease. The relationship between Parkinson’s and apathy may be complicated, however, since a flat facial expression is one symptom of Parkinson’s.
Some research also found that in those with mild cognitive impairment, the presence of apathy was a predictor of progression to dementia. In other words, apathy was a risk for further cognitive decline.
A person can also experience apathy without an underlying medical condition.
Researchers of a 2011 study found lesions in the frontal lobe of the brain in patients with apathy symptoms. The brain’s apathy center is widely believed to be located in the front of the brain. Apathy may result from a stroke that affects this part of the brain.
Teenagers are likely to experience periods of apathy. It typically passes with time. Long-term emotional detachment and apathy is not normal in teens.
The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of apathy. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
What increases my risk for apathy?
You are more likely to experience apathy if you suffer from any of the conditions mentioned above.
Please consult with your doctor for further information.
When to see your doctor
When should I see my doctor?
On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage apathy?
These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with apathy:
- Set up a schedule. Using whatever means you prefer – technology or pen and paper – set up a daily schedule. Incorporate your self-care routine including exercise, mindfulness activities and so forth, household and family responsibilities, and occupational duties. Don’t simply make a list, assign times to tackle each task and a lot enough time for completion of each item. Be sure to adhere to the schedule throughout the day and check tasks off your list as they are done.
- Reward yourself. Once you have successfully completed a preset goal, reward yourself – with some “me time” or a walk or social interaction, whatever you may still enjoy.
- Make yourself accountable. Sometimes the best motivation is someone else’s motivation. If for example, you want to start going for daily walks but find it difficult to initiate this activity, then having a walking buddy who gets you going regardless of your own internal drive to do so, can keep you on track.
- Start slow. If you’ve been apathetic for a long time, it may be difficult to take on a number of activities all at once successfully. But small advances that are successful, may be regarded as “wins” which starts to motivate future and greater action.
- Physically feel your best – exercise. Exercise has a number of tangible benefits and has been shown to increase motivation and interest thereby reducing apathy and increasing productivity. It gives you increased energy and may cause an increase in endorphins and other chemicals in the brain that elevates mood and improves motivation.
- Sleep is important. Sleep disturbance, unfortunately, is also quite common.The ensuing fatigue caused by poor sleep combined with apathy leads to significant issues. Through careful sleep hygiene and medical assistance, if sleep and fatigue are improved and not significant complicating factors, apathy may be easier to manage.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Being around the energy of other people, engaging in interesting conversations and activities can not only make you feel better but it can help spawn motivation – directed action.
- Inject some novelty into your routine. Routines can become dull and tiresome, so find ways of breaking loose from them. Maybe challenge yourself to initiate a conversation with someone at work you don’t know very well. Or change your exercise regimen—when, where, or with whom you work out; or what exercises you typically perform. Or make some changes in your diet, trying out new dishes or food combinations. Go on a trip, take a long walk in nature. Maybe consider applying for a new job, or going back to school to pursue an interest you’d forgotten about or earlier dismissed as impractical. And so on, and so on. Whatever might give you a new lease on life is well worth your consideration.
- Challenge your apathy in every way you can. What turned you on before you were beset with your present malaise? Any friends you’ve lost track of, but always enjoyed talking to—especially if they made you laugh? Any particular music you found appealing, maybe even tapped your feet to? places that inspired you, whether art galleries, botanical gardens, concert halls, sporting events, etc.? Though in your quandary, engaging in such activities might not engender the same excitement it once did, the more things you try, the more likely you’ll eventually be able to extricate yourself from the binding chains of your apathy.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: February 21, 2019 | Last Modified: November 29, 2019
What Causes Indifferent Mood? https://www.healthline.com/symptom/indifferent-mood. Accessed February 21, 2019.
Apathy: A Possible Warning Sign of Dementia. https://www.verywellhealth.com/apathy-in-dementia-4153289. Accessed February 21, 2019.
The Curse of Apathy: Sources and Solutions. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201604/the-curse-apathy-sources-and-solutions. Accessed February 21, 2019.
Apathy and Parkinson's Disease. https://www.verywellhealth.com/apathy-and-parkinsons-disease-2612192. Accessed February 21, 2019.