Dealing with Apathy
I don’t care very much that I don’t care! Have you ever felt like that before? So apathetic that you just don’t have the energy to think about anything? If you’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) like me, you probably have. It is an argument that I have far too often with myself and I am saddened to say, I win a lot but, winning is actually losing. Let me explain. If you don’t feel the motivation to go anywhere, do anything, basically experience things and would rather sit on the sofa binge watching re-runs of the TV show M.A.S.H., you might have a problem. It’s called APATHY and it is a real bummer dude! Unfortunately, apathy is part of the PD package.
What is Parkinson's apathy?
In a nutshell, it is your brain telling you that you are too indifferent to make a decision. Obviously not the scientific definition but I think you get the picture and could probably add an addendum to this article. Okay, so, your first challenge is to identify the problem. Usually it is defined through regular, everyday conversations with your spouse or care partner and sounds something like this:
- "What do you want to eat for dinner?" "I don’t know."
- "What do feel like eating?" "Whatever you make."
- "Do you want to go out?" "Not really."
- "Would you rather stay home?" "Okay."
Implications for people with Parkinson's
Apathy is not your friend. It is a serious symptom of living with PD that can worsen over time and can lead to depression and worse. Apathy is often lumped together with indecisiveness and indifference and can be very consuming and counterproductive to positive mental health. Not sure you can classify PD as positive mental health but the negative effects can be overcome. Apathy usually is characterized by a number of outward signs as aforementioned but there are internal signs as well.
Signs of apathy
- Negative attitude toward new things: hobbies, social events, public settings.
- Resistance to socialization, conversations and withdrawal from friends and loved ones.
- Indifference to many things: “I don’t care…”
- Indecisiveness: “Whatever you want."
Apathy is not depression but can lead to depression. It is like a gateway symptom. The importance of which should be monitored by your physician. I am not ashamed to say, I regularly struggle with apathy. Suffice to say, it took me weeks just to write this article but that would be procrastination. You see where I’m going with this? I am a fierce opponent and have some heartfelt suggestions to assist you in your battles.
Tips for managing apathy
- Don’t overthink it! If there is something you need to accomplish, just do it! Don’t think about it.
- Solicit help! Assign someone you trust to help and to hold you accountable.
- Change your attitude! Approach your next decision with a good attitude and with purpose and with plenty of time in advance. Spontaneous decisions do not leave time for your brain to process.
- Celebrate the victory! No matter how small, a quick trip to the grocery store perhaps can lead to overcoming apathy. I recommend an ice cream reward but that’s me.
Success in overcoming apathy and keeping it in check is not easy. You must fight daily against complacency and change your routine. Try and get in some form of physical activity or exercise. There are many options to choose from and some designed for people living with PD. Maybe change your diet. A change in nutrition may be just the boost you need. If you struggle with apathy, consult your doctor and choose a treatment plan that is right for you. Apathy is a serious symptom for some living with PD but it shouldn’t limit you in experiencing life. I’d love to hear from you how you overcome apathy and remember, keep battling my friends!
Do you participate in a support group for PD?