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Written By: DiveThru Team

Reviewed By: Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW


Feeling Apathetic: A Guide to Your Emotions

PUBLISHED Feb 7th, 2021 & UPDATED ON Dec 23rd, 2022

Apathy can be a weird emotion to experience. When you’re feeling apathetic, you are indifferent to things in your life. It could be your hobbies that you’re usually super passionate about, but suddenly you’re not excited anymore. Or maybe it’s your major that you’re studying. You were once really interested in learning about neuroscience or Greek mythology or whatever it may be, only now you couldn’t care less. And you’re not sure what changed or why you don’t feel how you used to! It’s confusing but at the same time, you’re kinda like meh. You just can’t bring yourself to care!

Sooo then… does apathy still count as an emotion if we don’t feel anything?? It’s all very confusing, we know. But don’t worry, we’re here for you! It’s actually more common thank you might think and something you can work through. Let’s dive thru what it means to feel apathetic and how it impacts your mental wellness.

A Deeper Look at Feeling Apathetic

You’ve probably heard the term before, but what does it really mean to be apathetic? APA Dictionary defines apathy as: “n. lack of motivation or goal-directed behavior and indifference to one’s surroundings.” Who hasn’t been there, done that?! It’s safe to say everyone has experienced apathy at one point or another, whether it’s feeling unmotivated at work or struggling to accomplish daily tasks. No, you’re not a freak for feeling this way. This sort of situational apathy is pretty normal!

Research shows that there are actually a few different types of apathy: emotional apathy (lack of both positive and negative emotions), behavioural apathy (lack of self-initiated behaviours), and general apathy (less motivation, lack of social interaction, and poor emotional responses). 

In more extreme cases, apathy can be a diagnosable condition. To be diagnosed with apathy syndrome by a healthcare professional, you must meet all four of the following criteria and experience them for at least 4 weeks:

1. Decreased motivation (or a lack of it)

It’s normal to feel less motivated some days. But when it starts to become a problem that affects your ability to complete daily tasks, work or maintain relationships, then it’s something more serious.

2. Changes in behaviours, thoughts and emotions

Behaviour changes mean you aren’t acting like your usual self. You might find it harder to follow your usual routine or perform daily tasks, like showering or having meals. It could also mean you’re less social and find it harder to have conversation. Changes in thinking might mean you have become uninterested in social events, the news and deep thinking. Your emotions, or lack thereof, are also out of the ordinary.

3. Quality of life is affected

These changes in your behaviour have started to have a negative impact on your life. For instance, if you’re suddenly less interested in your school work, your grades will probably reflect that. When you feel less motivated at your job, your work performance will take a hard left. As far as maintaining personal relationships, you might put less effort into communicating or spending time with others.

4. Changes in behaviour not caused by other conditions

Other behaviour changes that have nothing to do with physical disabilities, substance use, or an otherwise affected level of consciousness.

We repeat: it’s okay to feel apathetic. Sometimes we just don’t care about planning a baby shower for our cousin, working towards fitness goals, or successfully pulling off a group project. Our emotions can be a lot to deal with, so it’s not abnormal to just turn off the part of our brain that cares sometimes. But this feeling eventually goes away! It’s when apathy starts to impact our lives negatively that it becomes a problem.

How Feeling Apathetic Shows Up Mentally

When you feel apathetic, it affects your mental wellbeing in many ways. We’ve covered quite a few already, but here’s a breakdown of mental symptoms of apathy:

– Difficulty performing daily tasks

– Low energy levels

– Feeling indifferent or disinterested

– Lack of both positive and negative emotions

– Uninterested in the usual activities or hobbies

– Unmotivated or less goal-oriented

– Compassion fatigue towards events

– Reduced social interaction or participation

It’s normal to experience apathy from time to time, but when it’s prolonged and affects your quality of life, it could be a sign of apathy syndrome or mental illness including depression and anxiety. If you’re experiencing these signs of apathy for a prolonged period of time, it’s important to seek professional help from a therapist to determine the cause. You don’t have to navigate this alone!

How Feeling Apathetic Shows Up Physically

There are many potential causes of apathy syndrome. Medical conditions like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia, schizophrenia, and stroke can be the factor. These conditions impact the frontal lobe which is responsible for apathy. Since apathy can also be linked to mental illness including anxiety and depression, you might experience some of the physical symptoms of those conditions. 

Those signs include fatigue or difficulty sleeping, muscle tension, withdrawing socially, anger or irritability, difficulty concentrating, and more. If you’re experiencing apathy for a long period of time, it’s important to seek medical attention.

5 Ways to Cope with Feeling Apathetic

When you’re apathetic, overcoming this feeling might seem next to impossible. But don’t worry, we have some coping strategies for you! Try ‘em out for yourself and see how much they can help. We know you can get through this.

1. Journal

We’re big fans of journaling here at DiveThru! Writing down exactly how you feel can be a helpful way to reframe and counter any negative thoughts. Go ahead and fill those pages — you might surprise yourself with how much you have to say!

2. Move your body

Let’s get physical! Go for a walk, stretch, ride a bike, dance, you name it. Exercise releases endorphins and improves your mood. Plus, it actually boosts your energy and improves focus. It does alllll the things!

3. Engage in something creative

Use your favourite creative outlet to channel those apathetic feelings. Get artsy by drawing, sketching, doing calligraphy or painting. Write poems or try blog writing. Practice an instrument, sing, dance! Give it a go!

4. Practice meditation

Meditation is a method that’s been used to relieve stress and improve mental clarity since, like… forever. This practice allows us to slowww down and shift our mindset. If you’re not sure how to meditate, start out with a guided practice. Hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere!

5. Practice progressive muscle relaxation

When you feel apathetic, you might be struggling with giving a shit. And this can cause you to stress tf out about WHY you aren’t giving a shit. This is a helpful technique for reducing stress that involves tensing a group of muscles as you breathe in, and then relaxing them while you breathe out. Repeat as needed!

Anddd that’s it. That’s all for now, friend. Gentle reminder: you’re not a garbage human for feeling apathetic. You’re just human. No matter what, we’re here for you!

Read More: Online Therapy 101, How to Get the Most Value From Your Therapy Appointments,