Apathy: causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

Any apathetic state is usually considered a symptom (less often as a complex of symptoms or an independent syndrome), expressed in detachment, or indifference, in the absence of a person’s desire for any activity. An apathetic person is characterized by an unwillingness to do anything. It is also characterized by indifference to everything that happens around. Often he does not evaluate either positively or negatively the phenomena of the surrounding reality, objects, and objects in it. Emotional manifestations are uncharacteristic for him.

What is apathy in psychology? What to do with it, and how to fight? You will find useful psychologist tips and answers to the questions in the article’s material.

What is apathy?

In psychology, it is considered a syndrome in which a person becomes characterized by the absence of emotions – this is indifference to all. In other words, when someone is in a apathy state, they don’t care. It doesn’t matter what happens to him, those around him, or the world.

At the beginning of the article, the apathetic state was defined concerning the word “symptom.” This is not a random definition. The fact is that apathy can indeed be a symptom of various somatic and neurological diseases and a symptom of organic brain damage.

It should not be assumed that the syndrome in question is characteristic only of people with disorders. Sometimes and even in a certain sense often, it is observed, according to the practice of doctors, in healthy people. Practicing psychologists note that apathy can take the form of a personality characteristic. In this case, it is most fair to speak of it as a pathology expressed in an extremely low level of social activity and professionalism. There are cases where apathy is a significant characteristic of normal development and, for example, a characteristic of aging.

Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

Sometimes apathy is combined with a pathological lack of will. In such a situation, it is customary to talk about the presence of a psychopathological syndrome in a person, which can be described as emotional and volitional impoverishment.

The syndrome can also be combined with adynamia – a sharp decline in strength. In the worst case, this leads to the absolute unwillingness of a person to perform acts of physical activity.

How does apathy manifest itself in life?

The apathetic state has characteristic symptoms. They are expressed at the level of emotions, the level of behavioral reactions, as well as at physical levels. Relatively good when it comes to a particular level. Then apathy is weak and treatable. If it concerns the manifestation of signs of apathy at all levels, it is customary to talk about a strong syndrome. The fight against it and its manifestations, which is understandable, becomes difficult and even problematic in such situations.

Signs of apathy at the level of emotions

We will show and describe the three most common signs on an emotional level. It:

  1. Constant longing. In an apathetic state, 9 out of 10 people begin to yearn. Sometimes even without objective reasons. Absolutely everything causes melancholy in them: the view from the window, dinner while watching your once favorite TV show, chatting with friends, relatives, and so on. Against the background of this melancholy, the next symptom may develop – boredom.
  2. Boredom. From groundless longing in the case of apathy, a person’s constant dissatisfaction develops, against which he begins to get bored. Realizing that nothing and no one will lead him to a happy state, an apathetic person takes a “boring” position about the world around him. Boredom here is that even once loved and meaningful things cease to be interesting. Nothing is of interest to a person with a syndrome. And this does not seem to her as something bad or good: a person is bored and does not appreciate this fact in any way.
  3. Depressive thoughts. We can say that they are the last round in developing emotional reactions. Longing and boredom intensify daily; sooner or later, even the most stable and stable in terms of the psyche and morals of a person lead to depressive thoughts and moods. Here it is worth returning to the already detailed definition, according to which, in rare cases, apathy is a symptom of the clinical form of depression.
Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

So, we can say that on an emotional level, apathy manifests as an absolute detachment of a person from the world, his unwillingness to show either positive or negative emotions, reactions to certain things, to certain people. It becomes somewhat neutral.

Behavioral signs

As well as manifestations at the emotional level, we will single out three behavioral signs. There may be much more of them, but it is not advisable to talk about the unlikely ones. Therefore, we highlight those that appear most often. It:

  1. Laziness. In part, the manifestation of laziness, laziness, and other signs accompanying the state can be explained by boredom and loss of interest in everything. A person who ceases to be interested in anything begins to demonstrate laziness. Other signs that are closely related to each other may follow from it. A simple example is a carelessness.
  2. Carelessness. Such a behavioral sign should be considered the same as laziness, resulting from the lack of real interest in anything or anyone. Lack of ability to concentrate on the important, inattention to details, and more are signs of an apathetic person. He believes it is not worth wasting mental energy on memorizing something to highlight something or emphasize individual things, deeds, and objects. Why? Because he doesn’t care.
  3. Absent-mindedness. First, attacks of inattention and then systematically, regularly repeated “fits” lead to the fact that a person suffering from apathy acquires such a trait – absent-mindedness. In part, it is connected not only with inattention but also with laziness. The fact is that the unwillingness to do something in itself flows into an unwillingness to show attention to anything, even to important things, and absent-mindedness in this situation becomes the climax, the ultimate point in the development of behavioral reactions literally.
Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

We can talk about apathy as a condition in which a person is overcome by 3 “enemies”: laziness, inattention, and absent-mindedness. All of them are connected; they represent a “triple” set of reactions or changes in behavior that accompany the course of apathetic personality disorder. If combined with emotional signs, which should be understood, we can talk about the middle stage of the development of the syndrome.

Physical manifestations

They will also be highlighted 3. To begin with, it should be noted that all physical signs of apathy are closely related to other groups of manifestations shown and described.

Here are three tell-tale physical signs that apathy is involved:

  1. Drowsiness, sleep problems. We emphasize that a situation is possible when it is most fair to speak only about drowsiness. There are cases when there are only problems with sleep. Both can be corrected, sometimes with the help of special preparations (when only psychological help is not enough). The combination is dangerous. We are talking about a situation where, for example, a person experiences constant drowsiness during the day. By the time you need to go to bed (evening, night), insomnia appears. This is the worst-case scenario. Its danger is that against the background of drowsiness during “productive” time and the inability to have a normal rest at night, there is a possibility of developing the following two manifestations at the physical level.
  2. Lethargy. This is a natural and logically explainable stage in the development of physical manifestations of apathy. In conditions of lack of rest, the brain begins to suffer, leading to the inhibition of reactions at all activity levels. You will understand what I mean if you have been without sleep for a day or two. Absent-mindedness, inability to concentrate on something, and general fatigue – this is what lead to a noticeable slowdown in intellectual processes and emotions, a decrease in motor activity, and more often to acts of movement that are not adequate to reality (convulsions, twitching, shaking hands, and so on).
  3. Weakness. Weakness, like lethargy, can be seen as a consequence of drowsiness and sleep problems. Constantly high physical fatigue, inability to fully relax and the accompanying manifestations lead to a general breakdown. There is an opinion that sometimes it causes the manifestation of the signs considered earlier, especially behavioral ones (laziness and not only). However, there is also an opinion that this relationship is relative.
Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

To come closer to understanding apathy, you need to understand the mechanisms underlying its formation and development.

Causes of a apathy state

Some psychologists believe that apathy develops against the background of overwork, professional or emotional burnout, and the background of stress. And this opinion is correct. However, it should be noted that it is worth discussing the reasons in more detail. Specialists have identified two groups of factors (internal and external) that affect the development of apathetic states.

External factors

There are many of them so that we will highlight a few as examples. Here they are:

  • Getting fired from a job you love. If a specialist loved the job and gave all his best, and his merits were not appreciated, which led to his dismissal, the risk of developing an apathetic state becomes high. He loses his taste for life because he loses his favorite pastime. However, this is just an example. There were situations when a person worked somewhere just because he was paid good money. And he needed the money. Apathy in this case after dismissal may develop because the only source of income was lost;
  • Serious illness. Often, people who are faced with serious illnesses, especially when they consider themselves healthy, abruptly lose their “taste for life.” They stop caring about everything around them; they don’t care about others. And on yourself. A specific person can consider a serious illness in this situation as the beginning of an inevitable end, which results in an unwillingness to act and do something;
  • Death of a loved one. This seems to be an example for which no explanation is necessary;
  • Divorce. This example is more suitable for describing a situation where divorce is not an act of mutual consent. One of the partners may be strongly attached to the other. Divorce for him will be almost like “murder.” It is inappropriate to talk about how difficult it is to experience a forced separation from a beloved person. Many have gone through this.

Internal factors

It is often said that the internal causes of apathy come down to the presence of intrapersonal conflicts in a person. They represent experiences of something in a negatively colored form and result from confrontation and contradictions between the inner spheres of the personality.

Of particular note are the following factors:

  • setting unattainable goals and disappointment due to the impossibility of achieving them;
  • lack of goals against the background of emotional emptiness;
  • lack of independence;
  • frustration (inability to satisfy some strong need);
  • “groundhog day.” It’s about the absolute monotony of life.

Generally speaking, it should be noted that internal factors may be different. Still, in any case, they influence the state and tendency of a person to apathy from the inside and not from the outside.

How to treat apathy?

It has already been noted that apathy often accompanies some psychological and somatic diseases and may be a symptom. This increases the level of its danger and also explains the need for timely diagnosis and treatment, including the treatment of concomitant pathologies, abnormalities, and diseases.

Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

What to do in case of apathy? How to start fighting? You can try to start acting on your own; you can turn to professionals for help. Everyone should decide for himself, but it is important to remember: if independent therapeutic measures do not bring results, you should immediately contact at least a psychologist.

Psychological approach

If pronounced manifestations are found, psychotherapy and psychological counseling become necessary. The most common tools and methods a psychologist will use are cognitive and behavioral therapy and psychoanalysis. All this is necessary to teach the patient the ability to reveal, express, and understand their feelings and emotions, set goals, and achieve them to resist stress.

Psychologists often use this method – group training. In several situations, they allow increasing interest in the world around them and motivation for action among apathetic people.

Physical approach

Here it is necessary to speak first of all about the correction of the way of life. The psychologist will recommend finding a hobby or new activities. Good sports help, such as swimming. Additionally, as part of the physical approach, reviewing nutrition, wakefulness, and sleep patterns will be recommended.

Medical approach

Medications can be prescribed in cases where support is needed for the body in the recovery process if apathy results from excessive emotional and physical stress and overwork.

The therapist may prescribe antidepressants, stimulants, and other pharmacological agents.

Methods of self-exit from a apathetic state

How to help yourself if there are all signs of apathy? How to get rid of this destructive condition? Here are some psychologists’ tips:

  • Acknowledge the problem. This is the first and most important step;
  • be aware of the likelihood of negative consequences;
  • start changing. Try changing your lifestyle, find a new hobby or activity, and meet new people;
  • enlist the support of loved ones. It is important when someone supports and cares;
  • create an individual plan and tell yourself that apathy has no place in your life.

If you can’t cope with an apathetic state on your own, do not hesitate to visit a psychologist.

Apathy: what is it, what causes, signs, and how to deal with it?

What should not be done with apathy?

First and foremost, don’t give in. There is no need to spend days in bed with an empty head or depressive thoughts. It is important to make sure that there is a balance in everything. The point is that excessive activity or brain overload with new knowledge, for example, will not always be effective.

It is recommended to smoothly and gradually change, change your life. No one can immediately take and get rid of apathy. Therefore, remember that the main thing is not to let apathy take over and systematically begin to act.


Apathy is a serious problem that anyone can face. It can be a symptom of concomitant diseases or manifest itself. In any case, the problem should be dealt with. The sooner victory is won, the less serious the likely consequences will be.

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