Managing apathy when you have Parkinson's

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. 

Apathy is a loss of motivation for doing things. It can appear in different ways, including not being interested in activities you used to enjoy, difficulties planning tasks, or even having trouble thinking of what to do.

People with apathy might find themselves less motivated to take medication, exercise or live healthily. Apathy can also be hard for partners and family members.

Apathy and depression are different. People with depression feel low and pessimistic about the future, whereas people with apathy might feel indifferent or not bothered.

But apathy and depression, and anxiety, can overlap. If you are feeling low or anxious, you might have less energy to do things, feel it’s futile, or be worried about certain situations. All of these will impact your motivation to do things.

How can I manage apathy?

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.

If you are feeling low or anxious, then think about ways you can improve your mood. This might mean being more physically active, or spending time doing something you enjoy. 

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.

Follow a regular routine

Following a regular routine means you don’t need to plan and organise as much and doing things takes less effort.

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.    

Consider your energy levels

Manage fatigue by planning activities you enjoy for the times of the day when you have the most energy.

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.

Talk to family and friends

Talk to friends or family about how you are feeling. It can help everyone to know that your lack of motivation isn’t personal. 

Your friends and family can also help by providing support for planning activities, and giving lots of positive feedback when activities are completed. 

Tasks will be easier to achieve if broken down into smaller steps.

Speak to your specialist or Parkinson's nurse

You should also speak to your GP, specialist and Parkinson's nurse. They can arrange a medication review, to make sure your medication is managing your symptoms well. If necessary, they can refer you to a mental health specialist or counsellor.