Couch potato looks in awe at a light shining from a doorway out of frame

Couch Potato? You Might Have Apathy!

Last November, I wrote a story titled Apathy and Me. The story did not get a lot of play, so, I’m turning the tables and writing about you.

As a person with Parkinson’s, you may be dealing with apathy now or may experience it at some point during the progression of your Parkinson’s. About 40 percent of people with Parkinson's have apathy.1

Apathy can be misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed in the Parkinson's population because people may not realize there is a problem, it may look like depression, and it relies on the person with Parkinson's to report their own symptoms to doctors.1,2

What is apathy?

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, apathy is defined as a lack of motivation, feeling, emotion, interest, or concern about something.1

Apathy can show up in 3 forms:1

  • Cognitive - Loss of interest or curiosity in new things.
  • Emotional - A lack of passion or reaction to news or situations that normally would evoke an emotion.
  • Behavioral. Trouble initiating activity, a need for others to prompt one to complete tasks.

Do you have any of these symptoms? You you might have apathy!

Why is it a problem?

Why is being apathetic a problem? Apathy can interfere with managing your Parkinson’s symptoms. For instance, apathetic people may be less inclined to do things like exercise and follow their medication schedules.3

Apathy is not the same as depression. The Parkinson's Foundation explains that, "In some cases, apathy is part of a depressive disorder or related to cognitive decline. Apathy coupled with depression can diminish a person’s energy and make it difficult to separate how each affects a person’s mood."3

Depression can lead to feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or sadness. But, people with apathy experience no mood or are emotionally flat.1,3

Talk to your doctor

Apathy can be frustrating for people with PD and it can also impact caregivers and loved ones. Recognizing that it is a symptoms of Parkinson's and identifying finding ways to cope with it can help you maintain a good quality of life and good relationships.

Tell your doctor if you have apathy - they need to know. Your Doctor should check periodically to make sure your Parkinson’s medications are adjusted and unlikely to exacerbate apathy.1

Identifying support

Be open with others about having apathy. Acknowledging apathy helps explain but not excuse your difficult days and bad moods. It also helps establish a group of friends who offer understanding, support, and the occasional kick in the rear.

Building a social circle and identifying support buddies, like your care partner or a friend with Parkinson's, is essential. This group is there to give you that little push when you’re stuck.3

Use your Parkinson’s exercise classes or other social circles to help develop friends who expect you to be in class and ask questions when you’re not.

Obligation and goal setting

Commit to doing something, as in saying you'll participate or be there for others. Be obligated and put it on your calendar.

Set small incremental goals that are specific, time bounded, and most of all, achievable.  Work up from there - Rome wasn’t built in a day.1,2

Establish daily and weekly routines that do not include couch sitting. An achievable goal:  Use a smart watch or phone alarm to remind you to get up and take 250 steps each hour.

Keep moving forward

Remember, everyone slips or fails. If you slip, forgive yourself. Pick yourself up and keep moving forward.

May your couch be empty.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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