Apathy—the emotion, not the political party—is a common symptom of neurological disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, as well as depression. However, you don’t have to have a disease or mental health problem to feel apathetic. Apathy can also occur in people who are adjusting to a new stage of life.
For example, after graduation or retirement, some people experience apathy as they adjust to their new life without the structure and routine of school or work. But what is apathy? Why does it happen? And how can you tell if it’s just apathy or something else? Let’s take a look at these questions below.
What is apathy?
Apathy is a lack of interest or motivation. It may be caused by depression, but the two are not the same thing. Depression is a mental health condition that causes feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Some people who have apathy also have major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other mental health conditions. A person with apathy may appear unmotivated and tired all the time, but they do not necessarily feel sad or depressed.
How is apathy different from depression?
Apathy is a lack of interest in things that used to be important, while depression is an emotional state characterized by sadness.
Apathy may cause you to feel like life has stopped and nothing matters anymore, but when someone is depressed they may still feel this way even after doing something enjoyable or productive.
Who is most likely to experience apathy?
People with depression, brain injuries, chronic illnesses, dementia and substance abuse problems are among those most likely to experience apathy. People with cancer or Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease may also be affected by it.
It’s important to note that people who are depressed often have apathetic symptoms as well; however, not everyone experiencing depressive symptoms will experience apathy as well.
Can you develop apathy at any age?
Apathy can occur at any age, but it is more commonly seen in older adults than in younger people. It may also occur in younger people with a mental illness.
Are some people more prone to developing apathy than others?
Yes. People with depression, who have had a stroke or traumatic brain injury are all more likely to develop apathy. There may also be a genetic component that predisposes people to apathy and in some cases, there is no identifiable cause for the development of apathy.
Can people feel emotionally numb without having apathy disorder?
Yes, people can feel emotionally numb without having apathy disorder.
The experience of emotional numbness is common in depression and anxiety disorders, but it’s also a symptom of apathy disorder. The difference is that someone with depression or an anxiety disorder will have other symptoms along with the feeling of being emotionally numb.
For example, if you’re depressed and suffer from low energy levels and no interest in things that used to bring you joy, then this could be considered a form of emotional numbness (sometimes called “anhedonia”). If you’re experiencing intense anxiety and feel like nothing seems worth doing anymore—or even just not doing anything at all—then your feelings may be related to general apathy rather than clinical depression or another mental illness altogether.
If this sounds like something you’ve experienced before: don’t worry! You can still make changes in your life that will help alleviate these feelings by setting goals for yourself or finding new activities (like taking up yoga) that might lift your spirits up again. Many people find relief from chronic unhappiness by making small changes every day until their lives start feeling better overall!
What causes people to become apathetic?
- Lack of stimulation. If you’re bored, you’re likely to become apathetic. In fact, the feeling is so closely linked that it’s hard to tell them apart.
- Lack of motivation. When there’s no reason or desire to do something, it’s easy to get lazy and go with the flow—even if that flow leads nowhere important or exciting.
- Lack of interest . This is similar to lack of motivation in that it involves a lack of passion for an activity or idea—but can also mean actively disliking something enough not even bother doing it (or putting up with it).
- Lack of enjoyment . When you enjoy what you’re doing, there’s less chance that apathy will set in because enjoying yourself takes effort! It keeps things fresh and interesting by requiring your brain work harder at staying engaged if they want continue having fun while being productive at whatever task may be at hand.* Purpose , meaning , connection , control , confidence , self-esteem : We all want these things out lives…and when they’re lacking then we might start feeling bored too easily–which sets us up perfectly for becoming apathetic since boredom goes hand-in-hand with this emotion so often.”
Apathy can be difficult to understand. There are lots of potential causes and factors.
Apathy can be difficult to understand. There are lots of potential causes and factors, so if you’re thinking about apathy as a possible explanation for your mood or behavior, it’s important to consider all the possibilities.
- Depression: Sometimes people with depression experience apathy as well. It’s not uncommon for this symptom to go hand-in-hand with other symptoms like decreased energy levels, fatigue, insomnia or irritability (American Psychiatric Association).
- Other mental health disorders: Apathy is also common in people with anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder (American Psychiatric Association). People who have experienced trauma may also experience apathy due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (American Psychological Association). Taking certain medications that affect brain chemicals could cause you to feel apathetic; these include certain antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), anti-anxiety drugs called benzodiazepines and antipsychotics used treat schizophrenia among other things (the NIMH).
- Drug use: Drugs like cocaine can make users feel energetic at first but then lead them down many paths including feeling depressed or indifferent over time because they’ve lost their motivation or interest in things they once enjoyed doing before using the drug regularly.”
Apathy is a common symptom of depression, but it’s also something people experience on its own. If you’re feeling apathetic and disinterested in activities that used to be enjoyable, it may be time to talk with your doctor. Your doctor can help you determine the cause of your apathy and work with you to find solutions so you can feel like yourself again!
- Heron et al, 2018. The anatomy of apathy: A neurocognitive framework for amotivated behaviour. Neuropsychologia. 118(Pt B):54-67. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28689673
- Alzheimer’s Society (UK), alzhiemers.org.uk (2019). www.alzheimers.org.uk/…/factsheet_depression_and_anxiety.pdf
- Theleritis et al, 2017. Pharmacological and Nonpharmacological Treatment for Apathy in Alzheimer Disease : A systematic review across modalities. J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol. 30(1):26-49. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28248559