What is apathy, what are the symptoms and how do you overcome it? Hi everyone, welcome to my small corner of the internet. Today I want to share with you some thoughts about apathy, what apathy is, signs of feeling apathetic, what causes it and how you can get past it. How do you move forward if you are feeling apathetic?
If you have a lack of feeling, like there is no point in even trying, then I hope that this article will help you change your mind. Further, I hope it gives you the resources to choose differently. After all, it is not helpful, or healthy, to suffer from persistent feelings of indifference or a loss of interest in what happens in your life.
This article is a continuation of our series about the different states of emotion. These states are as described by David R. Hawkins in his book “Letting Go – The Pathway of Surrender.” You can find a table of the various emotional state here. In addition, you can find the previous article in the series on Guilt here.
Please bear in mind that this article is not professional or medical advice. It is the personal thoughts of the author and is meant to stimulate thought. If you feel the need, you should consult your doctor, they can refer you to a suitable mental health professional.
What Are the Symptoms of Apathy and Why do You not care anymore?
The dictionary definition of apathy is that apathy is usually a lack of interest, enthusiasm or concern. Apathy may be a perfectly normal state for a situation that you are indifferent to; but when you’ve noticed your apathy becomes excessive and persistent, apathy can be an symptom of something more serious.
Symptoms of apathy may show up as:
- Feeling unmotivated.
- Emotional indifference.
- Lack of interest in, or concern about things in general.
- No motivation to do daily tasks.
- Low mood.
- Feeling like a prisoner of war.
Apathy also arises when you are convinced that you cannot change your circumstances, no matter what you do. Also, the perceived hopelessness of your situation may convince you to stop caring and to stop trying to improve things. Consequently, this can lead to feelings of despair and cause depression to set in.
In biological terms apathy and a consequent lack of motion can manifest as a way to call for help, even if you think that nothing and nobody can help you.
Some History and the Overall Belief.
Historically, in poor economic times or times of change in technology, whole communities have fallen into a state of apathy after the skills they spent years to build up have become obsolete, or they have been replaced by automation.
The overall belief behind apathy is a feeling of “I can’t”, but is some cases the real motivation behind apathy is fear which manifests as “I won’t”. In this case, apathy is the manifestation of fear of change. This fear can come with feelings of anger. Perhaps the anger is because of past attempts to participate in change that didn’t succeed.
So if you are gripped by apathy, you should really decide whether the cause of your apathy or anger, is a lack of capacity, or an unwillingness to act due to fear.
What Parts of the Brain Cause Apathy, is it a Mental Health Condition?
The neurotransmitter in the brain associated with motivation is dopamine. Some illnesses have apathy occurring on its own as a symptom. For example Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia fit into this category. Generally, in neurological terms, the brain regions associated with apathy follow the dopamine pathways. Specifically, these are the ventral tegmental area, ventral pallidum, ventral striatum, medial prefrontal cortex, and dorsal anterior cingulated cortex. The disruption and damage done to the dopamine pathways by drug use such as cocaine is a major contributor to why addiction can cause depression and apathy.
The balance of dopamine in the brain is very important. Dopamine levels, after a boost, will typically reset to your natural equilibrium with time. As a result, periods of high dopamine and consequent motivation in the brain are counterbalanced by period of reduce dopamine which results in a period of lower motivation.
A lower average level of the overall natural balance in your brain, if too low, can lead to a general state of lacking motivation, which can manifest as apathy. Some people who have low natural levels of dopamine also have depression.
That “What Now?” Feeling.
For normal levels of dopamine balance, you should learn to expect a period of lower motivation after times when you have higher levels of dopamine released when you are highly motivated. This can best be described by that “what now?” feeling you experience after an exciting or motivating experience. If you are interested in learning more about the modern research into dopamine, I highly recommend Dr. Anna Lembke from Stanford University’s book “Dopamine Nation”.
If you experience apathy, it is important to differentiate between people and situations in your life making you feel like giving up and feelings of apathy which don’t seem to have a reason. The latter may indicate that a mental health condition is causing your symptoms. So, if this is a concern it may be time to consult your healthcare provider.
What is the root emotion of Apathetic Feelings?
The root emotion of apathy depends on whether you are experiencing “I can’t” apathy or “I won’t”. Although “I can’t” generally leads to “I won’t even try.”
As explained earlier, anger can play a part, but so can blame. Blame can be a convenient excuse for a lack of motivation to change your situation; after all, if you can blame your situation on somebody else, they must be the ones in the wrong – not you.
You might be receiving payoffs from your blame and anger; there may be a certain satisfaction you feel, and enjoyment you get, from self-pity. By the way, why should anyone be to blame for your situation? Sometimes unfortunate events happen and the best laid plans sometimes deliver unintended consequences. Overall it is important for you to remember that life is not necessarily fair.
When you experience these emotions, it is easy to avoid responsibility for your thoughts and actions. When you behave in this way, you limit yourself to being your small self, your ego self. This ego self can only relate to past events in your life. It has no realization of the infinite possibility that the greater “You” can manifest. Your greater self is that knowing being that you are at your origin, pure conscious awareness.
How do I fix my Apathetic Feelings?
Consider these two statements when you want to fix your state and treat apathy.
Firstly, you are affected by a negative thought only if you believe that it applies to you. This goes to your beliefs about yourself, what are the beliefs that you hold that are making you apathetic.
Secondly, when you were born you weren’t given an instruction book telling you how you are supposed to live your life. You develop and learn as you go and that process is naturally one of trial and error. So cut yourself some slack and stop beating yourself up for not knowing everything.
In order to overcome apathy, you should acknowledge the greater “You”, stop allowing the little you, the ego, to put you down and blame you into guilt and feelings of not being enough, in order to limit your life to smallness.
Some Questions to Ask.
You may need to ask yourself some questions about where your apathy is coming from; questions like:
- What are you afraid of here?
- What is the payoff you receive for not even trying anymore?
- Who are you blaming for this situation, is it really their fault, or anyone else’s for that matter?
- What previous experiences are you using as reference to cause your fear, does this situation have to have the same outcome?
- How do you let people and experiences show up differently in your life?
- Who can you use as an example of a better outcome?
- Is there a support group you can join of people who have overcome their apathy?
All of these questions and more can be explored either on your own, or with the help of a suitably qualified professional.
Apathy is really just the slow death of action. In order to stop this, you can start to get yourself moving by doing your daily things differently, this breaks your habitual behaviour and disrupts your thought patterns. Try to be more goal-directed. When you feel motivated, this may improve your mood. Motivation can be a way to protect yourself and prevent further distress.
Unfortunately, life is not fair, your experience is not positive or negative, it is just an experience. Above all, it is your reaction to it that makes it good or bad. If you can come to terms with this, you can move into a space of acceptance and realize that the world isn’t out to get you. Also, failure is a learning opportunity, the first thing to learn is that if something doesn’t work out the way you want it to, choose a different way of making it happen. Congratulations, you have discovered a way that doesn’t work, so you don’t have to waste any more time on that way of doing things.
Just remember, the universe is around 14 billion years old. It has been moving along regardless of anything else. When you compare the time you have been alive, why would the universe behave the way you think it should?
Get yourself into the habit of thinking about what you can be grateful for. Look for the positive in your daily encounters. This will disrupt your negative thought habits. If you are consistent and persistent, gradually you will replace your negative thought habits with better, more constructive thoughts.
Simple isn’t Always Easy.
These steps to overcome your apathy are simple but not necessarily easy. They will require you to make a commitment to yourself to choose differently. You may need to use the services of a facilitator to help you. Show yourself some love and give it a go.
In my experience with Clients, the results of using this approach to overcome apathy has two types of reaction. Some people just give it a bash, others cant believe that these simple ideas can help them so they underestimate the value of trying.
Just because an issue appears to be complicated, doesn’t mean the solution has to be equally as complicated.
Your apathy arose out of the beliefs you hold about yourself and your stored memories of the past. You will have to let go of both and choose differently in the present to make sure that you are not dragging your past into the future. Let go of the demons and ghosts of the past and free yourself to live your life on your own terms.
Some Quotes for You to Consider.
“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.”– Helen Keller.
“Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.”– Rollo May.
“For all the evils in the world, I think apathy is one of the most dangerous.”– Chris Long.
“Apathy is a sort of living oblivion.”– Horace Greeley.
“We’re forfeiting our power if we succumb to apathy.”– Camille Perri.
“Acceptance is different than apathy. It is important to strive to be your best self, your healthiest, most productive, joyful self. But that is going to be a different answer to everyone.”– Teri Hatcher.
“Experience is knowledge; but knowledge, when it is sought only as a material resource, is not always a blessing. Experience is wisdom; but wisdom, with those who lack vision, is not always power. Experience is tolerance; but tolerance, when it is induced by apathy, is not in the least a virtue.”– Ameen Rihani.
“Ignorance is a matter of laziness, indifference, and apathy.”– Tom Tancredo.
“”Fear is better than apathy because fear makes us do something.”– Emiliano Salinas.
Coping mechanisms are strategies that you use to deal with trauma or stress. These types of strategies can equally be used in dealing with apathy, generally there are two types, adaptive or positive and maladaptive or negative.
Adaptive coping mechanisms are strategies that leave you feeling better and assist you in overcoming your trauma or stress.
However, maladaptive coping mechanisms are strategies that leave you feeling worse off and cause you to struggle to overcome your trauma or stress.
Extreme examples of maladaptive coping mechanisms are alcohol and drugs, addiction caused by these strategies is described as coping mechanisms that have gotten out of control.
Sometimes potentially adaptive strategies, if not applied correctly, can transform into maladaptive ones. Using support groups as an example to illustrate this, you may think that a support group is a good idea for helping you overcome your apathy. This is a good idea but you have to choose your support group wisely.
As an example, let’s compare two imaginary support groups. Both meet weekly and are well attended and facilitated by professionals.
One support group spends their time discussing how awful life is and how everything is hopeless and they sympathise with each other and generally each session turns into a pity party for all concerned.
The other support group however, focuses on the successes within the group. The members encourage and support each other to try new things and complement each other with each success however small.
Which group would you like to be a member of?
Surrounding yourself with positive people who have been there and made a success of overcoming their own challenges and want you to succeed gives you a better opportunity to choose differently.
Some Frequently Asked Questions About Apathy.
The following are some frequently asked questions about apathy. As you read through these questions and answers, you will see the types of questions people just like you are asking when they want to find out about apathy. If your feelings describe a lack of emotion generally, or you feel that you should have concern about something but you just don’t care, you dont need to feel alone. It is easy to feel like you are the only person in the world with these concerns. Take comfort from the fact that lots of people are just like you, searching for answers and support.
Q. What is apathy?
A. Apathy is a lack of interest in, or concern about something. Consequently, this leads to emotional indifference and a lack of motivation. It is a common symptom of various neurological and psychiatric conditions including dementia, schizophrenia, depression, and certain other brain disorders.
Q. What are the symptoms of apathy?
A. The symptoms of apathy include feeling unmotivated, experiencing a lack of interest in daily tasks, and having feelings of indifference towards things that once sparked enthusiasm. Your apathy may also exhibit a flat affect, where your emotional responses are blunt or low.
Q. How is apathy different from depression?
A. Apathy is a symptom that can coexist with depression, but they are not the same thing. Depression involves a range of emotions, including sadness, hopelessness, and guilt, while apathy primarily focuses on a lack of interest or motivation.
Q. What causes apathy?
A. Apathy can be a symptom of a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and certain neuropsychiatric disorders. It can also result from brain damage, particularly affecting the frontal lobe, which plays a crucial role in motivation and goal-directed behavior. However, your apathy may be a genuine disinterest in the circumstances around you. This may result from boredom so it may be time to make changes in your life.
Q. Is apathy treatable?
A. Apathy can be treated. However, the treatment for apathy depends on its underlying cause. In some cases, managing the primary condition or adjusting medications may improve apathetic feelings. Therapies, lifestyle changes, and medications are often used to address apathy and avolition.
Q. How do healthcare professionals diagnose apathy?
A. Healthcare professionals use various methods to diagnose apathy. They may conduct interviews, assess behavioral changes, and measure apathy using standardized scales. The diagnosis may also involve ruling out other potential causes for the symptoms.
Q. Can healthy people experience apathy?
A. Healthy individuals can experience temporary or situational apathetic feelings. Stress, burnout, grief, or other life events can lead to a lack of motivation and interest. However, if these feelings persist or interfere with daily life, it is essential to seek professional help to understand the underlying cause.
Q. What are the subtypes of apathy?
A. Apathy can present in different subtypes, which may vary in intensity and characteristics. For example, some common subtypes include emotional indifference, cognitive apathy (lack of interest in intellectual activities), and behavioral apathy (reduced goal-directed behavior).
Q. How do you overcome apathetic feelings?
A. Overcoming apathetic feelings involves understanding apathy and its root causes. Seeking support from a healthcare provider, therapist, or counselor is a crucial step in identifying the underlying issues and developing a suitable treatment plan. Engaging in activities that once brought joy and making positive lifestyle changes can also help combat apathy.
Q. Can apathy be a way to protect oneself from emotional distress?
A. Sometimes apathy can be a defense mechanism to prevent further distress. In certain situations, especially during traumatic events or prolonged stress, a person may unconsciously shut down emotionally as a way to cope with overwhelming feelings.
Q. What are the potential long-term effects of untreated apathy?
A. If left untreated, apathy can lead to difficulties in relationships, work, and overall well-being. For example, it may hinder personal growth, limit productivity, and leave you feeling disconnected from the world around you.
Q. How can apathy affect daily functioning?
A. Apathy can significantly impact daily tasks and responsibilities. For instance, people with apathy may struggle to complete basic chores, lack interest in personal goals, and find it difficult to maintain relationships or social interactions.
Q. Is apathy reversible?
A. Depending on its underlying cause, apathy may be reversible. For example, treating the primary condition, addressing emotional issues, and making positive lifestyle changes can often help reduce apathetic feelings and improve motivation.
Q. How do healthcare professionals measure apathy?
A. Healthcare professionals use standardized scales and questionnaires to measure the level of apathy in individuals. These assessments help in understanding the severity of apathetic feelings and monitoring progress during treatment.
Q. Can apathy coexist with other emotional states?
A. Apathy can coexist with other emotional states, including depression. Someone may feel apathetic towards certain aspects of their life while experiencing positive or negative emotions in other areas.
Q. Is apathy always a symptom of a larger mental health condition?
A. Apathy can be a symptom rather than a standalone mental health condition. If persistent, it may indicate an underlying issue, such as depression, dementia, or other brain disorders.
Q. How can you differentiate between apathy and lethargy?
A. While apathy is a lack of interest or concern, lethargy is a state of extreme tiredness or weariness. Although they can sometimes overlap, they are distinct states and may have different underlying causes.
Q. Is apathy associated with any other emotional or psychiatric conditions?
A. Apathy is often associated with psychiatric conditions such as depression and schizophrenia. It can also be a common symptom of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Q. How can you prevent or overcome apathy?
A. Preventing or overcoming apathy involves understanding its underlying causes and addressing them effectively. Seeking professional help, making lifestyle changes, engaging in enjoyable activities, and maintaining social connections are some ways to protect yourself from apathetic feelings.
Just remember, your life will be what you believe it to be. You do not attract what you want, you attract what you are.
You might think that you are your beliefs and your past, but this doesn’t have to be. With love, compassion and a little determination you might be surprised what you can create for yourself.
You are far greater than your past and in fact your beliefs are probably not your own. Your beliefs are probably the result of programming by parents, contemporaries and other influential people and friends in your early formative years.
It’s time to decide what you want to believe about yourself. Your greater self knows exactly who you are; the greatness you are capable of.
Always question, try to make the right questions and choose differently.
With love as always
Richard H Morris
Nothing in this post should be interpreted as any form of professional advice. The content herein is provided for information and entertainment purposes only, and merely reflects the research done and opinions expressed by the Author. We do make use of affiliate links in our content, should you decide to buy something through one of our links we will receive a commission at no additional cost to the Purchaser.