Apathy in Parkinson’s Disease

Just what does apathy mean? Some say that the opposite of hate isn’t love, but apathy – an attitude of not caring. Miriam Webster defines it as showing little or no feeling or emotion. Spiritless. There’s little or no interest or concern. You feel:

  •  indifferent
  •  complacen
  •  disinterested
  • unconcerned

You are

  •  lukewarm
  • aloof
  • cold
  • numb
  • unemootional
  • detached
  • unfeeling
  • insensitive
  • unattentive

Ever feel that way? I highlighted the word spiritless above, because I think that sums up the whole mess.

Apathy can be pretty pathetic and discouraging when you come across it in someone. Most people who are apathetic cause you to feel frustrated by their seemingly sense of detachment and unfeeling attitude toward life. However, in a person with Parkinson’s disease, often beknownest to them what is truly happening, they don’t want to feel this way. They don’t want to feel numb, lifeless, or spiritless.

Some tend to believe that apathy and depression are one of the same. According to the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, “Apathy is defined as diminished motivation not attributable to a decreased level of consciousness, cognitive impairment, or emotional distress. Depression involves considerable emotional distress, evidenced by tearfulness, sadness, anxiety, agitation, insomnia, anorexia, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, and recurrent thoughts of death.” In a study conducted several years ago, doctors concluded that in Parkinson’s disease, apathy is present, but depression is more consistent with the disease. So do we ignore the sometimes and shoot for the consistent? No. It all needs to be addressed. So where do you start?

I have struggled with both aspects of these two specific non-motor symptoms. Apathy has robbed me of time. Opportunities. So has depression. Whereas apathy has left me feeling unemotional and numb, depression has left me in darkness, despair and desperation. When they have coincided with one another, it has felt like a ticking time bomb in my head and spirit. It is a scarey place to be and it is real.

  • For me, part of the apathetic feeling I had came from feeling like I didn’t know what to do next. Feeling stuck in those ‘off’ moments. Keeping a list of things I want to accomplish or need to accomplish, no matter how simple or mundane it may seem, helps to bring things back into focus. Here are some practical suggestions for those moments when you feel bound in the land of apathy (and they help for depression mode, too):Get up, take a shower, get dressed. Don’t think about how you ‘feel’. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted just be like a Nike commercial and Just Do It. Get going. And laying out your clothes the night before may sound childish, but who cares if it makes your life easier.
  • Get some exercise. Stretch. Walk. Go for a swim. If you can’t motivate yourself, ask someone to help you/keep you accountable. To pull you out of the house if they must, and drag you along until you’re going along because you now see just how much better you can feel.
  • Take your medications on time. This involves sorting them beforehand and having them ready to pop in your mouth. When you’re feeling apathetic or depressed, it is easy to just forget it becasuse unscrewing five child-proof prescription bottle caps four times a day isn’t something you’re going to feel like doing. You’ll pay for that apathetic thinking within the hour.
  • When you have things you really shouldn’t put off, do the things you hate first. That will make accomplishing your goals easier.
  • Talk to a friend. Have someone pray with you and/or for you. Having another person to share life’s struggles makes the struggle bearable.
  • Talk to your doctor. There are treatments for apathy and depression for people with Parkinson’s disease who find themselves fighting to stay sane. This disease already takes enough from us. Don’t let it take your joy and happiness, too.

3 thoughts on “Apathy in Parkinson’s Disease

  1. Nice suggestions. Your kind words outline another point that is implied by your dedicated blog: do something to help someone else. You were kind to me when you highlighted my book about King David’s directions from despair to hope. I have reduced the price to 99 cents to facilitate the same message and it will be free on April 30, the last day of Parkinson awareness month.
    My first book (Midnight in Florence) is also priced at 99 cents. It is seemingly a travelogue historical fiction but the underlying theme is a retrospective look at lives of notables (the Medici and Saint Francis) who succeeded in spite of health issues.. not dissimilar to PD.

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