What is apathy

Mental Health Treatment

What Is Apathy? An Overview of Its Types, Symptoms, and Causes

Apathy is often described as not feeling anything, being dark and emotionless, or missing something important in our lives. Surprisingly, this attitude drains so much energy that we become drowsy. This is an emotion that many of us can experience at some point. However, apathy sometimes can be a symptom of other mental or brain disorders such as head injury, depression, stroke, schizophrenia, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

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What Is Apathy?

It is easier to understand the specifics of this mental issue if we start by looking at the apathy definition. The word ‘pathos’ comes from the Greek word for passion or emotion. So, apathy is the absence of these emotions and a loss of regard for something or someone, similar to hollowness.

Also, this term is used to describe a lack of goals, drive, involvement, or inspiration. And generally, apathy can lead to a lack of joy, increased anger, or unhappiness toward things or people that used to evoke a passionate response. This condition is likely to develop when we are going through difficult times.

Apathy Symptoms

Summing up the above information, apathy primarily affects your sense of pleasure and motivation. Therefore, apathy syndrome refers to a person who has feelings of low motivation and unhappiness for an extended period and begins interfering with daily activities or functioning. But such an explanation is too broad to help identify this condition. Moreover, although it is sometimes referred to as a syndrome, apathy syndrome is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual’s Mental Disorders (DSM). So, to diagnose apathy, therapists examine a wide range of symptoms, the most common of which are disclosed below.

How to Know if You're Apathetic?

The following symptoms usually indicate apathy:

  • Decreased productivity and endurance
  • Less drive to achieve goals
  • Goals are given less consideration
  • Lack of interest in self-care
  • Participation in social activities has reduced.
  • The mood is flattened or blunted
  • Unresponsiveness to positive or negative events on an emotional level
  • Absence of excitement
  • Sadness
  • Rage

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What Causes Apathy?

Generally speaking, a feeling of apathy is familiar to many people. We all may feel a short-term lack of energy or motivation occasionally due to any stressor or just because of being tired of dealing with day-to-day problems. So, there is no specific reason to experience apathy, and not every case requires particular treatment.

However, when the symptoms of apathy are chronic and persistent, they can be linked to having a specific condition. Common conditions that can cause apathy are:

  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Fronto-temporal dementia
  • Schizophrenia

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Apathy symptoms

Apathy Types

A study published in 2019 describes diverse types and subtypes of apathy, including the following major ones:

  • Behavioral apathy is described as a lack of self-initiated behaviors.
  • General apathy is characterized by low motivation, weak emotional responses, and reduced social participation.
  • Emotional apathy is a state in which the person has neither happy nor negative feelings.

Treatment and Coping Strategies

Treatment approaches for apathy depend on the causes. In general, people can overcome the feeling of apathy through coping strategies. However, it needs treatment if the apathetic mood is caused by an underlying psychiatric or medical condition.


Medication. The apathy that develops due to chronic conditions like brain injury may need a prescription. The following drugs are commonly used:

  • Stimulants
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics

Psychotherapies. If apathy is caused by psychological conditions such as anxiety or depression, then a patient can opt for psychotherapies. The choice of therapy method can differ according to the particular situation. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most used one. It helps clarify thoughts and actions that may contribute to feelings of apathy and a lack of motivation.

Coping Strategies

Learning self-help methods is the most effective way to deal with apathetic feelings. Here are a few coping strategies you can try if you feel low motivation.

  • Look out for potential triggers. Take note of any situations or stressors that make you feel apathetic. Removing the hurdle that is causing you to feel unmotivated can make you more capable of finding inspiration.
  • Divide large projects into smaller steps. When faced with an enormous task, it is easy to become overwhelmed. However, even if you feel apathetic, you can progress toward your goal by tackling a small portion of the project each day.
  • Alter your routine. The daily grind can leave you feeling uninspired at times. Look for ways to break out of your usual routine, even if there are minor changes.
  • Find new sources of joy. When nothing else makes much difference in life, you can consider whether your motives and passions have started shifting. People change with time, and apathy can develop if the hobbies or work that you once enjoyed no longer stimulate you.


When you are feeling unmotivated, supportive friends and family can help, and having their support may help spark your interest. However, seeing a therapist can be a good option if self-help for coping with your apathy didn’t bring the expected relief. Don’t hesitate to ask professionals about science-based techniques and medication: MEDvidi will be the right choice for your therapy needs. Reach us for assistance!


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