Ask the MD: Apathy

If you have Parkinson's, you may have heard about the benefits of exercising or joining a support group, but just don't feel motivated to do so. Or, if you provide care, you may have noticed that your loved one doesn't seem interested in his or her favorite activities anymore.

This could be due to apathy, a common non-motor symptom of Parkinson's disease. Learn more about apathy and possible treatments in a recent blog by Rachel Dolhun, MD, a movement disorders specialist

7 Replies

  • Apathy is not just unique to Parkinson's disease of course and I also believe that personality type has an awful lot to do with this and motivation and engagement. I'm not sure what the opposite word for apathy is maybe its energy but I know that I am usually the person that falls in the latter camp however I am not immune to feeling the weight of this condition to the point of excluding myself from activities. when it's hard and frustrating to move you don't want to move but the point is if you make yourself move you actually can move better. I think this thing to do here is to do something that you absolutely love and don't force yourself to jog when you've never done it or liked it or to swim if you don't like water movement can take lots of different shapes you just need to find the one that makes you smile. thank you once more for your useful and relevant posts they are as ever rewarding to read

  • I think you are so right about personality being a part of the whole Apathy thing. Before my husband got PK he had already regressed as far as doing things. We used to travel and all of a sudden 9 years ago he decided he didn't want to go visit family with me. We have 4 children and live about 8 hours from them, so I started going without him. Got used to that and just excepted the change. Then 2 years ago when the parkinsons came, it just made things worse. We rode motorcycles, but had not ridden for 3 years before the PK came on. Which makes me believe what they say about a person could have the start of PK long before any outward symptoms are visible. He lost even more interest and then the tremors started in one arm and then the other. When we made the decision to sell the bikes, it's as if we sold part of his heart. He now uses that as his reason not to do anything.

    Every day I see him regress more and more as far as being around people. Our children do their best to visit us because they know that I cannot leave him to long like I used to. I find myself fighting depression because I know that every day is the same and I can't seem to give him a good reason to push forward. I won't give up, just over whelmed at times.

    Thanks for listening!

  • Bravo to you to keep trying. He's still in there, something will fire up his passion again. I use music when I'm feeling insular 😃

  • I can totally relate. My energizer bunny has more or less checked out. He avoids family functions, missed Christmas Dinner, school plays, refuses to participate in any social situation. I feel single, alone and trapped and now I'm depressed living each day like this. We don't go anywhere or do anything as a family anymore. We have a young child which makes this very difficult. Hard to not hate him, but I do think that brain damage has caused this apathy. I've read that apathy is a precursor to dementia. Dementia patients often act this way. I think that dopamine makes you passionate, interested, aroused, curious, makes you want things. My husband says that he simply doesn't feel anything. He's not sad, not regretful, not angry, not depressed, he's "nothing". "off" = dead but alive.

    Question for you. Is he dysfunctional, sexually?

  • Wow tobebo it sounds like your describing my husband. Sometimes I just get in my car and cry. Then, I start counting my blessings and pray that the meds they just started him on start working and give him some quality of life back.

  • This is a very well-written article. I have had personal experience of apathy, which varies in intensity. It hardly happens anymore but when it did, at the very beginning, after diagnosis, it was difficult to overcome. But when I found that it wears off after 10 minutes or so, after starting to do meaaningful exercise, or solve a Sudoku puzzle, I found that I was able to carry on and feel a lot better.

    So why not give it a try? Start to do something instead of sitting there feeling sorry for yourself.

    What you put in is what you get out!


  • Absolutely!! You have to keep going, which is the difficult task I have with my husband!!

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