Apathy, if you translate the term literally, is a lack of feelings, interest, or any reaction to specific situations or life in general. Many people have brief periods of apathy at some point in their lives, a condition described as being indifferent to what is happening or not wanting to do anything. But in a medical sense, this problem is considered a long-term syndrome.
Apathy is usually associated with certain mental conditions or disorders. Specific symptoms of apathy include:
- absence or severe depression of emotions, feelings, anxiety, or passion;
- lack of motivation (there is no desire to do anything or complete what was started), weakening of willpower;
- lack of meaning or purpose in their actions, but unlike depression, there is no feeling of uselessness and hopelessness, there is simply no desire, no intention to say anything, do or react in any way;
- slowness, very low energy and passivity;
- detachment from life and personal events – this is especially common in people with dementia.
Causes of Apathy in Adults
Most people experience a feeling of apathy from time to time – this is not a pathology. It is worth worrying when apathy is persistent and affects a variety of areas of life.
Apathy can be caused by a problem with areas of the brain that control emotions, goals, and behavior. It is often one of the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Up to 70% of people with dementia lose interest in life, they are apathetic.
Apathy can also be a symptom of other brain conditions such as:
- brain injury from a strong blow to the head;
- Parkinson’s disease;
- Huntington’s disease;
When chronic and severe, apathy can interfere with work in many areas of life – making it difficult to work, disrupting social relationships, and even performing basic daily self-care tasks.
Our motivation arises in and is regulated by specific areas of the brain. Disruption of these areas (especially the frontal lobes) may be associated with the development of apathy. A decrease in the secretion of certain substances in the striatum, especially dopamine, can lead to apathy. Dopamine is the main carrier of information between parts of the brain and is actively involved in the regulation of motivation.
The basal ganglia are the part of the brain that regulates the reward system and attraction. This zone gives us an idea of the value of behavior or reward for work. Disruption of these networks can also lead to apathy, as there is a mismatch between motivation and reward or incentive, which leads to an unwillingness to work, suppression of purposefulness.
Therefore, apathy is not “normal” and long-term apathy should be considered a neurological or psychiatric symptom most likely associated with a brain disorder.
Symptoms of Apathy in Adults
Typical signs of apathy include:
- difficulty in performing daily tasks;
- a feeling of indifference to everything that happens;
- lack of emotion and interest in classes;
- lack of motivation to achieve goals;
- low energy levels;
- decreased desire to participate in various activities;
- unemotional reaction to both positive and negative events.
Apathy can often be a symptom of depression, but it is important to emphasize that they are not the same thing.
What to do with apathy in adults at home?
Treatment for apathy depends on the underlying causes of it. We can cope with common manifestations of apathy through lifestyle changes and personal care habits. But if symptoms occur due to underlying medical or psychiatric illnesses, you need to see a doctor. For most illnesses, treatment may include medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
For apathy caused by progressive neurodegenerative disorders, your doctor may prescribe medications to try and treat these symptoms.
Examples of medications that can be used to treat conditions with apathy as a symptom include:
A doctor may also recommend psychotherapy when apathy is associated with a condition such as depression or anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one approach that addresses underlying thoughts and behaviors that can contribute to feelings of indifference and poor motivation.
You can also take a few steps yourself to help overcome feelings of apathy.
Set small goals for yourself. Going for a lot and then failing to complete the tasks can make you feel defeated and unmotivated. Instead, focus on small tasks that are easier to complete.
Break large projects into chunks. When faced with a large project, it is easy to feel apathy and reluctance to get started. By doing just a small part of it each day, you can make progress towards your goal, even if you suffer from apathy.
Watch for triggers. Notice if there are certain situations or stressors that make you feel apathetic. Removing obstacles that make you feel unmotivated can help you find inspiration.
Change your routine. Sometimes the daily routine can overwhelm motivation. Look for ways to break out of your daily routine, even if the changes are relatively small.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Friends and family can help you when you feel unmotivated, and their support can help spark your interest.
Is apathy dangerous, can it have complications?
Apathy is one of the symptoms of psychological problems, but it can also be a symptom of one of the psychiatric diseases. If this is a variant of a symptom of a psychiatric illness, then without treatment, this pathology can lead to sad consequences.
When to see a doctor for apathy?
You should definitely consult a doctor if apathy develops after a stressful episode or after childbirth – to exclude depression. It is also important to see a doctor immediately if apathy is associated with sleep disturbance in the form of early awakening or new unusual symptoms such as auditory or visual hallucinations.
Is it possible to cope with apathy using traditional methods?
Today, medicine does not know traditional remedies that could “stir up” a person and bring him out of apathy. The use of traditional remedies can aggravate the situation if the appointment of serious drugs is necessary. In such cases, a person may simply lose precious time.