What is apathy and how does it affect mental health

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Apathy is the lack of emotions and motivation in a person. Find out how apathy affects mental health and how to treat it.

Have you ever gone through a phase of total detachment from everything that happens in the world around you? You may feel a complete lack of emotions, motivation, or enthusiasm. These are signs of being apathetic. Unlike feelings of passion or enthusiasm, apathy means a state in which a person feels devoid of feelings or emotions. When you lack the drive to lead a fulfilling life, this indifference can directly impact your motivation levels, causing you to lead a life full of monotony. And yes, it affects your mental health.

What is apathy?

Apathy is not a diagnosis, but a symptom or state in which a person may display a regular range of emotions, such as sadness, happiness, or irritation. The person may seem disconnected from the people or situations around them, and may not engage in daily routine activities after having been functionally engaged in the past, explains psychologist Geetika Kapoor. When you feel lethargic, you may:

• Stop showing interest in your daily tasks, hobbies, or personal interests.
• You find it difficult to show interest and attachment in your relationships.
• I don’t feel like spending time with other people.
• Feeling a lack of emotions or mood changes.

Feelings of apathy increase in times of extreme stress. But if it becomes persistent, it can start to affect your daily life and well-being. It can also be the result of certain medical or mental health conditions that, if not treated well, can worsen apathy.

Understand everything about apathy right here!

Signs of apathy

Apathy may appear due to underlying medical conditions or result in response to transient life situations. Therefore, it is important to seek medical evaluation when a person shows signs of apathy, and not assume it is temporary. The duration of apathy symptoms will also be important. Typically, any symptoms that last more than a month should seek medical attention and be evaluated.

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Some of the common signs of apathy include:

• Lack of expression of a regular range of emotions
• Lack of interest in the people and situations around you
• Decreased participation in day-to-day activities or less capacity
• Indifference to one’s own illness or the illness of others
• Fatigue
• Loss of pleasure in things you normally enjoyed
• A tendency to be alone more
• Problems with planning or problem solving

Read too: Serotonin vs dopamine: know the difference between the two happiness hormones

Types of apathy

Authors of a 2017 study created the Apathy-Motivation Index and used participant responses to help label three different types of apathy:

1. Behavioral apathy

When you have behavioral apathy, you are less likely to show interest or motivation or initiate any goal-directed daily activity on your own.

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2. Social apathy

Social apathy is described as a reduction in a person’s initiative in proposing or engaging in social activities or interactions, according to a study to study.

3. Emotional apathy

You feel a deep emptiness within you that causes a lack of emotions within you. You may feel indifference toward the daily events of your life and may not care if your words or actions upset others.

Read too: Fatigue has a big impact on your motivation levels, study finds

What causes apathy?

Apathy may not be due to a clear cause, but may occur due to living conditions or because an individual may be experiencing a certain mental or physical health problem. The expert highlights some of the main causes of apathy:

1. Medical causes

Neurological and biological reasons can cause apathy. Health conditions that can lead to apathy include Alzheimer’s disease, depression, schizophrenia, frontotemporal dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or vascular dementia, to name a few.

2. Psychological trauma

Exposure to emotionally or life-threatening situations can leave people terrified. Emotional numbing may be a common response that helps people protect themselves from feelings of oppression and ongoing threat.

3. Prolonged social, professional or personal stress

Prolonged struggles in social, professional or personal areas can lead to a state of emotional overload and exhaustion. Much like the trauma response, a person may unknowingly withdraw inward to save themselves from exposure to stressors, shares psychologist Geeta Kapoor.

Find out what apathy means and what it looks like. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How is apathy diagnosed?

Since apathy is not a medical condition, but a feeling that can result from various life scenarios, any therapist or mental health specialist can help identify the causes. This can be done by identifying the symptoms you may experience to diagnose apathy. However, in neurodegenerative conditions, apathy is measured using certain criteria by healthcare professionals.

This can include loss of motivation, when you show little or no interest in connecting with others or spend more time contemplating or completing daily tasks. The specialist can also understand the effect of apathy on the quality of your life, since this feeling of indifference or detachment can negatively affect your work, your relationships or your life in general.

How is apathy treated?

Apathy, once recognized and recognized, can be treated in several ways.

1. Medical evaluation

If you have symptoms of apathy for more than 4 weeks, some tests such as blood tests, mental status examination, genetic tests, brain imaging, and neurological examinations may be performed to properly diagnose you after consulting a mental health specialist .

2. Seek help from a therapist

In case of psychological trauma or stressful exposure, intervention from a therapist should be sought, the expert suggests. Cognitive stimulation therapy that involves group participation in games or other activities can stimulate brain waves. At the same time, artistic or musical therapies can help people get in touch with their emotions. This can increase positive feelings and inspire motivation in apathetic people.

3. Take care of those close to you

A support network of close friends and family can help you regain some interest in life. So it might be worth putting your feelings into words. When your loved ones know that you are experiencing apathy, they will stop taking your indifferent behavior personally. Family and friends must accept the person’s need to withdraw and not get caught up in the righteousness or logic of their behaviors

“Creating a less stimulating and calming environment for loved ones or healthcare professionals can help the person feel safe. Family and friends should not pressure the person to take on expected responsibilities. Attempts should be made to understand and address the circumstances from the person’s point of view”, advises the expert.

4. Lifestyle changes

Apathetic people can make adjustments to their way of life. This can be done alone, even without the help of a therapist. Change is normal, so you can begin to embrace apathy by directing your efforts toward what can be done now to improve. Try going to places you like, eating what makes you happy, spending time with people you identify with, or trying something completely new!

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