Dealing with Apathy

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 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

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.

Suggestions

  • 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

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!

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

Comments

View Comments (9)
  • karla
    4 months ago

    Apathy is not really my problem but it is my husband’s problem. I’m the one with Parkinson’s but I usually have to push him. If I don’t feel up to doing something he is all too willing to follow. I don’t worry about doing too much, quite the opposite.

  • nortonvivian
    4 months ago

    Thanks so much for your article. It hits very close to home.
    As my 84 year-old husband’s Parkinson’s is progressing into stage 4 he has all the symptoms you list plus opting to sleep as much as he can. He had been a 3-4 times a week golfer, gardened extensively, rode the mower over our 2 acres, painted, and played bridge.
    Even though he doesn’t have significant tremors the increasing stiffness and diminishing tactile sensation, and loss of most executive functioning has eliminated all the activities from his past.
    He had done the Big part of the Big and Loud program and we continue exercises and massage at home. It’s is a tough life for. him.
    So, life is a downer all the way around! We are fortunate in our blended families and although they are all working they do try to help as much as they can. We have housekeeping help, which, for all those out there, it is a significant, huge deal for me!!! It frees up time that I use to do exercises with him, do massage, and help with the bathroom issues. The cleaning help is way more important than the things to fill shelves.
    As care giver I’m fully aware that it’s important/healthy to keep involved in some things for myself. I play trumpet in a New Horizons (senior band), walk a few miles almost every day, and occasionally (bike) spin at the Y.
    The bottom line of all of the things that are happening with John’s health is that our increased time together is bringing us closer than we were 30+ years ago.

  • chris.hall moderator
    4 months ago

    That’s a wonderful perspective despite the challenges you two face. Glad to hear that you have help to work on things with your husband, and to care for yourself! Thanks for sharing, @nortonvivian! – Chris, ParkinsonsDisease.net Team

  • AO1968
    4 months ago

    Chris H. Windmills are for gardens, about 4 feet high, with operating propeller. Just built for my cabin and home as decorations.

  • PaulineWilson51
    4 months ago

    I also suffer from apathy. It is a tough thing to overcome. I make a list of things I want to accomplish in a day (mop the floor, make a soup, get my flu shot, write to my friend, work on genealogy), but I never seem to get much done. I really have to push myself. But I enjoy doing all these things (yes, even mopping the floors!) Why is it that I feel like I just can’t be bothered! It is almost as though my motor runs down before I can really get going. Sometimes when I am really committed (I offered to host my brother in law’s Celebration of Life in Jan after he died rather unexpectedly. I cleaned my house, decorated it, set out photos, guest book, flowers, serving dishes and served 35 to 40 guests, admittedly, with lots of help! But I did it!) I can follow through. I try to do some things I LOVE and some things I just have to get done. Thank heavens I get a lot of help from my husband!

  • Michael Church author
    4 months ago

    Ferg56, that is certainly a predicament but you are not alone. There are literally hundreds of situations like yours and it can be very frustrating and draining of your energy. It sounds like your stepmom needs a break. Could home health or respite care help?

  • ferg56
    4 months ago

    My dad has this at 80. My stepmom does not seem to want to help him out of apathy because it makes him easy to manage, like he’s a mushroom on a log. Nothing I suggest gets any traction with her. I hate seeking him waste his days just sitting in the house but if I rock her boat, I can see me not having access to him at all. He was a major outdoorsman and sports man all his life!!

  • AO1968
    4 months ago

    I could have written this article – it is so true. For example, I built a windmill 15 years ago and it took me about a month. I built another windmill – same size – about 7 years ago and it took me about 2 months. PD diagnosed in 2015. I started building another windmill – same size – 2 years ago and am only half done. Why? I forget to order the bearings for the propeller, forget the name of the proper bearings to order, don’t really care if I finish the windmill – all of the above.

  • chris.hall moderator
    4 months ago

    Thanks for sharing, @ao1968. Apathy can be a tough one to deal with. That’s really interesting that you build windmills, though! Is this a hobby of yours? – Chris, ParkinsonsDisease.net Team

  • Poll