What Is Apathy: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Last Update on June 20, 2024 : Published on January 24, 2021
Apathy signs causes and treatment

A person may completely want to avoid any kind of activity, or interaction with others and show a lack of interest in happenings around them. This can be because of the absence of emotions within them, generally called Apathy.

The term apathy could be used in many contexts but the individual may not be able to maintain personal, interpersonal as well as professional relationships.

What Is Apathy All About?

We all experience apathy from time to time and do not wish to show interest in anything. It could be due to a lack of motivation or because of no interest in day-to-day activities. However, the degree can vary amongst people and sometimes can be a symptom of depression, stress or mental health disorder.

Interestingly, the term apathy or feeling pathetic can also be described as a lack of concern for loved ones or losing interest in what was always loved before. Some types could be seen to understand the depth of apathy.

  • Emotional apathy- Where the person doesn’t feel any kind of emotions, positive or negative.
  • Behavioral apathy- It shows a lack of self-initiated behavior
  • General apathy- No motivation or no interest in social behavior

Apart from the above ones, other forms of apathy include Bystander apathy (When the person finds out the one in distress but still avoids helping them) and Compassion fatigue (When people care at the beginning but become emotionally exhausted due to overwhelming nature).

What Are The Symptoms Of Apathy?

One facing apathy could show symptoms like:

  • Not able to complete everyday tasks
  • Doesn’t show any emotions to anyone
  • Low energy levels
  • There is no motivation to make or achieve goals
  • No response to positive or negative events in life

Although there are some related symptoms of apathy like Anhedonia and Lethargy. In this, anhedonia is a state where the person loses interest in enjoying the activities that they usually do. At the same time, lethargy consists of slowness, drowsiness and tiredness.

What Are The Causes Of Apathy?

Symptoms Of Apathy

If you are wondering how a person can become apathetic towards life and what could be the conditions under which it happens then find it here! Let us still repeat that every human being could feel apathy at a certain point in time but if it prevails for a longer time, it causes issues in life.

  1. Depression: Because of depression, an individual can not concentrate on anything or take part in pleasurable activities. Depression and apathy have a direct connection within.
  2. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: People with OCD may feel that a certain habit or compulsion is taking over their lives and causing apathy.
  3. Dementia: Diseases like Alzheimer or Parkinson’s could directly affect your behavior and may create the vacuum of apathy within.
  4. Schizophrenia: People with schizophrenia can have hallucinations, delusions and trouble concentrating in one single place.

What Triggers Apathy?

Apathy is a condition that can be triggered by several factors including mental health conditions, medical conditions, and trauma. One of the triggers of apathy can be depression and anxiety. Depression can be described as a feeling of persistent sadness and loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities. Chronic anxiety can be another trigger as it can cause burnout and emotional fatigue, leading to feelings of apathy.

Another trigger could be neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. These disorders impact cognitive functions that can be important for motivation, memory, and decision-making. An impairment in these functions can lead to an inability to enjoy day-to-day activities with enthusiasm.

Certain medications can also trigger feelings of apathy. Medications that impact the central nervous system such as antidepressants and antipsychotic medications can have side effects including apathy.

Another trigger for apathy can be excessive use of alcohol and recreational drugs. These substances tend to alter brain chemistry and cause apathy. The brain’s reward system is affected by substance use and can dull your sense of pleasure, causing you to lose interest in activities.

Furthermore, trauma and the loss of a loved one can also trigger apathy. If you’ve experienced a trauma in your life or are facing the loss of a loved one, then you might withdraw from social activities and lose interest in once-meaningful activities. This social isolation can be a defense mechanism to overwhelming emotions, but in the long run, it could lead to chronic apathy.

What Are The Treatment Options For Apathy?

Treatment for apathy is provided by assessing if it is present because of any other condition or mood disorder. Sometimes people are able to manage their condition by making lifestyle changes and becoming mindful of the present moment.

However, if it is because of psychiatric conditions then it must be treated with the help of a therapist or psychologist. It starts with the diagnosis where physical examination takes place as well as a questionnaire is given to you. If the physician recommends then the therapist asks you to undergo psychotherapy.

1. Psychotherapy: To treat symptoms of apathy, therapies like Talk therapy and Cognitive behavioral therapy are applied. These therapies help a person to express their thoughts, helps therapists to identify negative thinking patterns and alter it with constructive discussion.

2. Coping strategies: There are some self coping strategies if the person recognizes that he or she is dealing with apathy like:

  • Making smaller goals in life so that they can be finished in time and you can still keep yourself motivated for further goals.
  • Even if the task is bigger, make sure that you break it into smaller steps to cope with apathy.
  • Figure out if you can change your routine as a similar kind of routine only makes you feel low and leave you unmotivated.


If you or your loved ones are facing apathy symptoms then you must consult a therapist to find ways to overcome apathy. In case you want us to connect you with a therapist, drop us a message at info@calmsage.com.

About The Author

Akanksha Soni
Akanksha Soni

Akanksha is an active lifestyle blogger and writer at Calmsage. She has learnt various lessons on happiness and methods to fight depression through 'Gurus' as well as own experiences. An ardent practitioner of Yoga and meditation, she keeps traveling, writes and interacts with people to feel alive.

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