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Apathy: Meaning, Symptoms, Behavior & Tips To Solve It

Apathy: Meaning, Symptoms, Behavior & Tips To Solve It

What is Apathy? What are its symptoms, how does it manifest itself in behavior and what can you do about it? Read on for an explanation and tips…

What is Apathy? The definition…

What exactly is apathy? There are two ways in which we can describe apathy:

  • It is a state of no feeling . A-pathy literally means: a lack of feeling.
  • When you feel like you are missing something in your life, but are not motivated or driven to pursue something, then you experience this “emotionless” emotion we call apathy.

Inactivity is often the result of a lack of emotion / feeling

apathy symptoms

Through much psychological research, it is now an accepted science that you must experience feelings about something if you are to take meaningful action on it personally. Without any compelling emotion to direct your behavior – and apathy literally means “without feeling” – you simply aren’t stimulated enough to do anything.

The pain-pleasure principle also has to do with this. When you feel apathetic, you are not motivated enough by the pleasure of achieving or the pain of not achieving something.

More features and symptoms of apathy

In addition to a (non-) feeling, apathy is also an attitude. And unfortunately, that attitude is one of indifference, insensitivity, inattention, unwillingness, and detachment.

Apathy is an attitude of non-participation.

Such an attitude deprives you of so much energy that you feel lifeless, listless and almost “paralyzed” to act, without the will to do anything. There is a lack of motivation and enthusiasm.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
– Edmund Burke

Causes of Apathy

apathy behavior

Here are a few things that can lead to apathy:

  • Have you become so bored or worn out by tedious daily routines that it seems like there is nothing to look forward to?
  • Do you have negative thoughts about yourself or your prospects?
  • Or is it possible that you may have experienced failure or rejection not so long ago?
  • Has anything happened to you recently, or someone you deeply care about, that has not only disappointed you but left you demoralized, pessimistic, or downright hopeless?
  • Are you afraid of acting out of fear that you could fail or be rejected?
  • Have local or perhaps global events left you feeling cynical, as if whatever you try to do to change things can’t make a difference?

Solutions for Apathy

If you have fallen into the deep pit of apathy, what should you do? The solutions below are specifically aimed at changing something inside in your ‘mindset’.

Your immediate task is to change your own vision. In other words, you are much better off concentrating on fixing what is in your head instead of trying to change what is happening outside of you.

How do you do that? Below you will find useful tips.

Tip 1 – Use the pain-pleasure principle

apathy pain pleasure principle

The pain-pleasure principle seems to offer a solution  for apathy. Ask yourself, “Am I willing to make a commitment to myself to resolve this apathy and pursue a meaningful goal, even though it feels like it will take a lot more energy and effort than I am now able to? to give?”

The pain-pleasure principle can give you this painful feeling: If your languishing continues indefinitely, the consequences can be enormous. You cannot possibly live life to the fullest – happy and fulfilled – if you actively give up on pursuing your goals and desires.

In addition, failure to act can lower your self-esteem and end up in those painful feelings like worthlessness, guilt, or shame.

Tip 2 – Compassion for yourself and your apathy

What happens when you offer yourself more compassion, empathy, and understanding – and possibly forgiveness for any past insensitivity, transgressions, or shortcomings?

That simply means that you sit on your bed and acknowledge that you are suffering. You just give those ‘negative’ emotions the space to be felt. For more instructions on self-compassion, see this article.

Tip 3 – Changing habits

change apathy

Changing habits is not easy. That’s why there is a perfect technique for this: Kaizen , aka the Baby Steps Method: What is the easiest, most feasible first step you can take to get yourself out of the anesthetic you’ve been slipping into for a while?

Also novelty is effective because it works as a nice break pattern. Life becomes fun, easy, and interesting when we regularly do something in a different way or do something else at all.

Inject some new into your routine. Routines can get boring and exhausting, so find  new ways to break free from them.

  • Maybe you are challenging yourself to strike up a conversation with someone at work you don’t know very well.
  • Or maybe you change your exercise schedule – how, when, where or with whom you train; or which exercises you normally perform.
  • Or maybe you change your diet by trying new dishes or combinations of dishes.
  • Go on a trip, take a long walk in nature.
  • You may want to consider applying for a new job, or going back to school to pursue a subject you forgot or previously dismissed as impractical.
  • And so on with coming up with new things. Just do things differently.

More ways to change habits? Read on here.

Tip 4 – The standard NLP procedure

Within most NLP interventions there is a kind of standard step-by-step plan that goes as follows:

  1. Relive better times when you felt enthusiastic and alive. What hobbies, leisure activities or other activities have you ever engaged in that you found exciting?
  2. Look through your own eyes again and live the experience as if it were happening now.
  3. Take this feeling – which you have apparently been able to evoke just now – with you, for example with an anchor,  so that you can use it for the unwanted context …
  4. … This unwanted context is, for example, tomorrow, where you would normally stay in bed until noon. Visualize that unwanted context with that source of enthusiasm and liveliness. Notice what is different.

More information about this NLP procedure can be found in the article: what is NLP?

Tip 5 – Choose a goal

choose a target for apathy

If we look at Bateson’s model of the logical levels, a goal, or mission, can change everything in your life:  your identity, values, capacities, behavior and environment.

So, set a goal that you could pursue right now. Considering your values, skills and preferences, choose a goal to give attention and enthusiasm to.

Tip 6 – Go to the doctor for a possible diagnosis of something deeper

If, after working with the suggestions above, you are still unable to escape your apathy, chances are you are suffering from a deeper underlying depression.

And for this you probably have to rely on professional guidance. A coach and / or doctor is often the solution when everything else isn’t working.

On your luck!

About The Author


Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!