Managing apathy when you have Parkinson's

Apathy is being increasingly recognised in Parkinson’s. It's described as a lack of enthusiasm and emotion for everyday activities. This can feel like depression. 

Unlike depression though, apathy is not linked to low self-esteem or a negative outlook on the future. So just because you experience apathy, it doesn't mean you have depression. 

Apathy can be temporary, but is often frustrating for both the person affected and the people around them. But there are ways to manage the symptom, which we share here. 

Reflect on how you feel

Consider why you feel apathetic and try to see things from a different perspective. For example, if you’re worried about the things you can’t do anymore, try thinking about the things you can still do. 

Think about what you used to enjoy

Is there a way you can engage with activities you used to enjoy? For example, reconnecting with a friend you used to see regularly or going back to an exercise class.

Try something new

Routines are important, but can become dull. Try doing something you haven’t done before or don’t do very often. It doesn’t have to be big. For example, try a new recipe, or go for a walk somewhere you’ve not visited before.

Stick to your plans

If you’re living with apathy, it can be easy to cancel plans. But meeting friends or doing an activity can have a positive impact on your mental health.   

Set a goal

Try to make your goal realistic and not something that might overwhelm you. Break down bigger tasks into smaller chunks, so you are more likely to achieve what you have set out to do.    

Exercise regularly

Physical activity is good for you and is especially good for you if you have Parkinson's. Being active for 2.5 hours a week can help manage Parkinson’s symptoms, and has a positive impact both physically and mentally.

Ask for help

Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling. It can help everyone to know that your lack of motivation isn’t personal. You should also speak to your GP, specialist and Parkinson's nurse. If necessary, they can refer you to a mental health specialist or counsellor.