What is apathy and how to deal with it

From the Greek a-pathos , apathy indicates the absence of passion . This is the etymological meaning of the term that makes passion coincide with everything concerning the affective sphere, that is: emotions , feelings and desires.

There is a form of apathy, today, facilitated by the contradictions of our times, says our epserto  prof. Roberto Pani, psychotherapist professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Bologna.

“On the one hand, the economic and political crisis extinguishes all motivation in looking for work or making investments, on the other hand the development of social networks offers fictitious images of a very active life that collides with a reality that appears to be poorer in stimuli – says the expert – We also risk deluding ourselves that we have many friends, while we are secluded on our sofa, but when we want to leave the house we no longer know who to call or we all seem not very available. And this can generate apathy ».

Apathy: what are the symptoms

The symptoms of apathy are characterized by the lack of desire to do ,  which manifests itself both towards concrete activities, such as hobbies, and towards planning one’s own future; from the lack of enthusiasm  for the small and big things in life; and a sense of emptiness .

“Although it resembles laziness , apathy should not be confused with it since laziness can be a side of the individual character that is rarely associated with psychological suffering as it happens in apathetic people” says our expert

Similarly, apathy should not be confused with depression , which can itself be one of the many symptoms. “But apathy and depression don’t necessarily go hand in hand.”

What are the causes of apathy

Why don’t you feel like doing anything? Why does one remain in a state of generalized passivity? “To answer this question, we need to distinguish at least three categories of apathy , which have precisely different origins” continues the expert.

Apathy following a disappointment

It is the most frequent form, it is apathy that occurs following a disappointment . “Some people become apathetic as a reaction to disillusioned expectations : within themselves they feel a great anger that they do not know how to express except by suffocating it with the lack of motivation.” What’s the point of life if I haven’t got what I hoped for

Apathy of an imitative nature

“It is that type of indolence that connotes the personality of an individual who grew up in a context where family members were devoid of enthusiasm, and who therefore are structurally led to ” imitate “the apathetic behaviors learned from an early age” explains the expert . They are those people who have nothing to say or do because they believe they feel nothing or think it makes no sense to communicate their thoughts.

Apathy related to depression

“In this case, apathy is a symptom that accompanies the emotional state of profound depression : it has more serious implications and more negative meanings”. It differs from the first type of apathy because it is associated with self-depreciation, repressed hostility, low energy and rather intense emotional blocks.

How to get out and what are the remedies

“First of all, it is important that the apathetic person realizes that he has slipped into a vacuum of actions and emotions, and that he has a minimum of will to regain energy ” explains prof. Breads. Some people may find their apathy normal and so want to bask in a limbo that all in all acts as a protective shell against life to “live fully”.

“And then the treatment against apathy depends on the degree of severity : if it is an aspect of the character, it is difficult to expect a change – continues the psychotherapist – different is the case of those who become apathetic after a disappointment: there are concrete actions that can help to get out of the passive state . On the other hand, when apathy is one of the symptoms of depression , it is advisable to contact a psychotherapist or, in more serious cases, a psychiatrist who can decide whether to prescribe specific drugs “.

What to do against apathy

  • Set yourself goals, starting with the most feasible ones, so we also talk about small gestures, but we must actively engage in pursuing them.
  • Try to regain an old interest, starting to follow it little by little.
  • Finding the creative sideeven in seemingly boring situations, such as repetitive work or housework
  • Avoid repeating to yourself that the world will always be the sameand will not change, but be convinced that the first step to get out of passivity must start with us.

How to stimulate an apathetic person

What if the apathetic person isn’t you, but another person you love? How to help her get better? «Try to take her out of the house, inviting her to go out in a stimulating social context in contact with other people: these can indirectly suggest that life is (still) full of things to do » advises the expert.

“If a person has lost all motivation because he is disappointed by something (friendships, love, work) it is important to listen to him and make him understand politely that his is a momentary experience , which will pass, leaving room for a memory”.

If it is true that perfection does not exist in reality, it is also true that that same reality reserves possibilities that it is up to us to grasp.


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