Apathy is a word we hear a lot around recovery, however, it might be something that we don’t entirely understand. There is an inherent idea that compares it to depression or casts it as only a symptom of another mental health diagnosis. Apathy is a challenge all on its own and it can be difficult to overcome and lead to other serious mental health challenges. There must be a greater understanding of the nature of apathy on its own in order to take a closer look at the potential risks it poses. Is the feeling apathy or is there more to it?
Aren’t I Just Unmotivated?
Apathy is more than just feeling tired and lazy. It’s a persistent lack of ability to motivate oneself to complete any task that compromises emotional, cognitive, or behavioral function. This can be anything from changing spending behaviors in order to reduce financial stress to investing time to looking into therapy for anxiety. Essentially there is a lack of motivation to set or follow through with goals, an inability to self-motivate, and as problems pile up or become more difficult to manage, risk factors like the addition of a co-occurring mental health issue become prominent. Many who are affected by apathy can still be motivated by an outside source, such as a family member or the potential for a great consequence, so it can be difficult to recognize how large an issue it has become for a person. As it goes unrecognized and untreated it has the potential to become a greater problem.
When it Becomes Dangerous
Apathy can be a symptom of depression. By itself, apathy lacks feelings of sadness, depressed mood, and sensations of discomfort that are markers of depression. As symptoms, both depression and apathy can significantly impact each other, and it is dangerous to leave either unchecked due to their propensity to act as a symptom to one another. People that are or become affected by depressive disorders with apathy can have a significantly reduced quality of life if left untreated. Those who deal with this pair of mental health issues struggle to find motivation for things they once loved and also attempt to do so through a profound sense of sadness. There can be a lack of motivation to care for oneself in the most basic of ways, taking medication, connecting with others and the world around them, and sustaining themselves.
Decreased ability to find the motivation to care for oneself coupled with feelings of sadness and isolating behaviors can lead to passive or active suicidal ideation.
Passive suicidal ideation is when someone may have thoughts of suicide or even the desire to end their lives, however, they don’t progress into plans to follow through. The person who is affected by passive suicidal ideation is someone who feels little pleasure in being alive. They might daydream about the thought of dying in their sleep or being the victim of an accident. They may go a step further and actually feel they wish to die or wish to commit suicide, but there is no action or plan behind these thoughts. Passive suicidal ideation is something that can often go months or years without detection as it is rarely verbalized to others. This can pass into active suicidal ideation very quickly if triggered.
Active suicidal ideation is when an individual moves from having the idea or desire to end their lives into planning out the action. While there is research that shows a scale of likelihoods to commit suicide based on several factors, any time someone is making plans to end their life should be taken very seriously. These individuals often feel a sense of hopelessness and they see no point in continuing to live when they are suffering in the manner they are. Not every individual that actively thinks of or even plans suicide will follow through, but rates of suicide are rising, despite the more open conversations being had about mental health. If someone you love has mentioned a desire to commit suicide, reach out for help immediately.
No matter the mental health struggle there are ways out. Apathy itself can greatly benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, individual therapy, and if needed, medication. Depression can be treated with many different types of therapy, medication is also an option for treatment. For these or any other mental health challenges, there are also outpatient and inpatient programs that exist in order to give people the ability to work more intensively on healing. These can be especially helpful for the individual who has struggled with mental health challenges for years without any form of treatment. There are therapies that focus on co-occurring mental health disorders, in order to recognize and treat multiple diagnoses and consider how they affect one another. These different options exist in hopes of giving people the tools to change their lives, but when it comes to apathy or even depression the motivation to do so might be lacking. Here is where an individual can reach out to someone trusted and ask them to assist in the process.
Ashley Addiction Treatment is an innovative treatment program located on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. Ashley provides support for professionals seeking help with addiction. We are able to help people with co-occurring disorders and offer confidential treatment programs to meet your needs. Please reach out to us today at 800-799-4673.