Apathy: What is apathy and what are its symptoms? Diagnosis and treatment

Apathy: What is apathy and what are its symptoms? Diagnosis and treatment
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The concept of apathy has many interpretations in the general public. It expresses indifference and lack of motivation, interest and emotion. How does apathy manifest itself? Why does it arise? How to motivate oneself properly and when to seek professional help from a doctor?

Apathy can affect our work, family relationships, and even the most mundane daily activities.

Apathy can be a short-term condition or a long-term symptom of illness.

It is often associated with demotivation, disinterest, sadness and indifference to environmental stimuli.

Manifestations and symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment options, motivation, psychotherapy and much more interesting information can be found in the following article.

What is apathy?

Apathy is officially defined as a lack of motivation, willpower, emotion and interest in environmental stimuli. It is characterized by indifference and often increased fatigue and sadness. It can affect work, personal relationships and normal daily activities.

Apathy may resemble laziness, disinterest in environmental stimuli or even a dislike of life.

A synonym for apathy (indifference) is the term lethargy.

All of us have experienced an apathetic state at some time in our lives. In certain situations in life, apathy can be normal.

Often it is only a short-term condition caused by various causes. It can be caused by a challenging period in work and personal life, stress, prolonged stereotyping, physical and mental fatigue, and so on.

Apathy can be a temporary condition that will pass in a relatively short time. Alternatively, it may be present as a symptom of certain illnesses. Frequent, long-term and chronic apathy is dangerous.

Apathy can be a symptom of various neurological and psychological diseases.

It can be a symptom of various psychological illnesses such as depressiona anxiety disorders. It also occurs in neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or senile dementia.

Symptoms and manifestations of apathy

The symptoms of an apathetic state are certainly not pleasant. Apathy can be both physical and mental. It can manifest as exhaustion, reduced energy, and an inability to concentrate and think.

Possible symptoms of apathy:

  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Demotivation
  • Indifference
  • Dislike of life and normal activities
  • Frequent mood changes
  • Deterioration of mood
  • Feelings of sadness and anxiety
  • Drowsiness, lethargy
  • Increased fatigue
  • Laziness
  • Decreased ability to think
  • Impaired ability to concentrate
  • Disinterest in environmental stimuli
  • Decreased quality of sleep
  • Weaker work performance
  • Problems in partner relationships
  • Ignoring social life
  • Introverted tendencies
  • Headaches and migraines

Aetiology and causes of apathy

Isn't it just a short-term loss of motivation?

It is very important to be able to distinguish between morbid apathy and loss of motivation and a temporary apathetic state with a specific cause.

All of us at some time experience an unpleasant phase of failure and stagnation.

An individual disgusted with life easily falls into a state of apathy. This feeling may last for days or weeks. If it is not addressed, it may return repeatedly.

When prolonged apathy interferes with personal relationships, work and daily life, it is a pathological condition.

Pathological apathy is characterised by a loss of interest in social contact, social activity, external stimuli and normal daily activities.

Short-term loss of motivation due to a specific cause can be managed much more easily, unlike pathological apathy.

By overcoming a bad period, changing lifestyle, work, new stimuli, hobbies, creative activities, environmental support, psychotherapy, meditation motivation techniques and many other ways and life impulses.

A balanced healthy diet, regular physical activity, stress elimination and quality sleep are the foundation of body-mind balance.

In the event of a difficult period, long-term loss of motivation and feelings of stagnation, it is advisable to turn to a loved one or ideally a professional. A psychologist (psychotherapist) can help you to analyse and manage the condition much more quickly.

It is advisable to become aware of the cause of demotivation and to set short-term goals, priorities and expectations.

Apathy and illness

Apathy in mental illness can affect all age groups. The causes of apathy cannot be listed in general terms. They are distinguished according to the illness they accompany.

Persistent apathy can be an accompanying symptom of various psychiatric and neurological problems. It is often associated with depression, melancholia, anxiety disorders or schizophrenia.

Most often apathy is associated with depression.

Apathy can also occur in people with neurodegenerative disease. The most common neurological diseases with apathetic symptoms are dementia, senile dementia, Parkinson's a Alzheimer's disease.

Apathy can often be one of the first signs of the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

It can also occur in people with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. In some cases, apathetic states can be the result of organic changes in the brain, such as a cyst, inflammation, hematoma, clot, tumor, and other structural findings.

When is it appropriate to seek professional help?

If the cause of short-term apathy is resolved, there is no need to consult a doctor for this condition. Even in this case, it is advisable to use the support of family and loved ones.

If apathetic behaviour due to unpleasant events persists for several weeks and does not improve despite all efforts, it is necessary to seek the help of a specialist - a psychotherapist (psychologist, psychiatrist).

A persistent apathetic state with psychological symptoms (anxiety, depression, lack of interest in the environment) and physical symptoms (fatigue, headache) requires a visit to a psychiatrist.

If you are considering this option, do not hesitate to contact a specialist.

Diagnosis and treatment options

In most cases, the diagnosis of the aetiology of apathy is made by a psychiatrist, psychologist or neurologist. The doctor will use a rating scale to assess the impact of apathy on the quality of daily, professional and personal life and on changes in the individual's thinking.

Conservative treatment consists of sessions with a psychotherapist. The psychotherapist guides you to develop a more positive view of the world. He shows you different techniques for proper mind-set and motivation.

Counseling by a psychotherapist for apathy helps the individual to cope with the unwanted condition faster. It helps towards a healthy mindset and lifestyle.

The doctor may also prescribe pharmacotherapy - medications to relieve anxiety and depressive states. These negative symptoms are often associated with apathy.

The specific psychopharmaceutical depends on the exact diagnosis, symptoms, and health status of the individual.

The treatment of apathetic states in neurodegenerative and mental illness is primarily medical. Antidepressants, psychostimulants, antipsychotics and other psychopharmaceuticals are most commonly used in relation to apathetic symptoms and general mental health.

Manifestations of apathy in children

If you notice that your child is suddenly different, lethargic and unresponsive to stimuli, you should be vigilant and seek a pediatrician if in doubt. It may be just fatigue, but also infections or other acute illnesses.

If your child is suddenly different, lethargic and unresponsive to stimuli, you should be vigilant. If in doubt, see your pediatrician. It may be just fatigue, but also infections or other acute illnesses.

In young children, an apathetic state is usually associated with another illness.

Young children are physiologically more energetic, positive and generally more lively. Fatigue, demotivation and disinterest in environmental stimuli are usually associated symptoms of another illness.

Thiscan be a common illness such as a cold or flu, but also more serious conditions such as brain injury, meningitis and other infectious diseases.

It can also be a sensitive response to an event in the home or school environment.

In older children or adolescents, apathy may be a manifestation of self-seeking, lack of interest, feelings of loneliness, etc.

With persistent apathy and other symptoms (anxiety, depression, panic...) it is advisable to see a paediatrician or child psychiatrist. This can prevent the onset of mental illness in adulthood.

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Interesting resources

  • DUŠEK, Karel and Alena VEČEŘOVÁ-PROCHÁZKOVÁ. Diagnosis and therapy of mental disorders. 2nd, revised edition. Prague: Grada Publishing, 2015. Psyché (Grada): Psychiatric Hospital. PSYCHIATRIC PSYCHIATRY (PSYCHIATRIC PSYCHIATRY), ISBN 978-80-247-4826-9
  • KUČEROVÁ, Helena. Psychiatric minimum. Prague: Psychiatric Hospital: Grada, 2013. Psyché (Grada). ISBN 978-80-247-4733-0
  • healthline.com - Understanding apathy or lack of emotion. Healthline. Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA
  • medicalnewstoday.com - What to know about apathy in depression. Medical News Today. Yalda Safai, MD, MPH
  • pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov - Apathy: a neuropsychiatric syndrome. Pubmed. PMID: 1821241. R S Marin
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