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Apathy is one of the nonmotor symptoms of PD that is difficult to diagnose and treat...




Apathy is one of the nonmotor symptoms of PD that is difficult to diagnose and treat. Apathy can appear differently; common symptoms include:

· lack of motivation to go anywhere or do anything

· difficulty planning tasks or having trouble thinking of what to do

· loss of enthusiasm for former activities or interests

Some of those living with PD have described apathy as "I just feel empty and I don't know why." Or "I just don't care about what's going on around me." The late comedian Richard Lewis said of PD: “The disease wants you to give up. It wants you to get lazy, not exercise, not go out, to lie in bed, put on the television, try to read. It’s out to get you unless you fight back.”

Apathy is challenging to separate from other conditions. It can be a complication of PD, strokes, and cognitive decline. It can occur with depression or alone. A dopamine imbalance can cause symptoms of apathy. It may also be a protective coping mechanism for trauma or grief. But while apathy can be protective for a time, staying in a state of apathy for an extended period can negatively affect your life. If you have feelings of apathy, you need to share this with your medical provider. Some medications may help, but lifestyle changes may be even more helpful.

As we age, it becomes increasingly important for our emotional and cognitive health to experience activity and socialization at least several times each week. With PD, this becomes even more critical. It helps to establish a regular routine with both activity and socialization built in. Make this routine a part of your day without negotiating with yourself or your care partner.

Apathy can be a very frustrating situation, not only for you but also for your care partner and family. They may recognize your changing behavior long before you are aware of it, and they may encourage you to take an interest in your old hobbies and participate in life as before. However, you may feel content due to a lack of self-awareness and perceive their attempts to help as nagging. Resentment and frustration are the results for everyone affected.

Care partners often say, "My spouse doesn't want to help him/herself." Apathy gives that impression; from their perspective, it can be very frustrating. Understanding what it is and how you may be affected can help you and your family adapt to your lifestyle living with PD. Families need to realize that apathy is not voluntary and must be willing to work with you without nagging. You need to understand that, just like other symptoms of PD, apathy should not be ignored. It would help if you addressed it with your medical professional. Discussing it with your family and asking them to help find a solution is equally important.

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