Apathy: When You Have No Motivation and You're Exhausted

Have you ever felt lacking interests and motivations? We all get caught up in apathy at some point...
Apathy: When You Have No Motivation and You're Exhausted
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 May, 2024

People say that apathy is like a curse. They say once it catches you, it won’t let you go. I’ll mess up your life, extinguish any fire you have inside, and put out your feelings completely. It’s a state of mind where discouragement abounds, hope disappear, and even your body hurts. You lack energy and desire, like you’re a prisoner of an absolute physical and mental dullness.

Most of us have experienced this at least once. But, is it really a state of mind? Or is it a feeling? Is it perhaps an attitude towards life? Apathy is actually multi-facted. We know this because we have firsthand experience of it. Its impact reaches practically every fragment of our being. It’s a lack of motivation, it’s weariness, it’s disappointment, it’s sadness

“Sometimes I have the horrible feeling that time passes and I do nothing, and nothing happens, and nothing moves me to the core.”
-Mario Benedetti-

This kaleidoscope of mental, emotional, and physical processes is often described as one of the most unpleasant situations a person can experience. It’s like pressing the “pause” button on life and being suspended in a strange dimension where an absence of initiative and hope reigns. No one should be there longer than necessary. So let’s look at the causes of apathy and how to manage it.

I don't care post it note.

What is apathy?

Apathy literally means a lack of feeling. While that might sound a bit exaggerated, just remember the last time that apathy took over and thoughts like these swirled around in your mind: “Nothing catches my interest. Everything is meaningless. I don’t care what happens next. Nothing matters…”

This unbearable lethargy greatly impacts a person’s cognition. It distorts your focus. You’re unable to focus or retain information. However, the shadow of apathy impacts your emotions even more. So much so that you may wonder if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression.

Two things must be clarified here. While it’s true that depression sometimes presents with apathy, this may not always be the case. Apathy is not always there. Some people have been diagnosed with depressive disorder without apathy, and vice versa.

That is, apathy by itself is not a direct indicator of depression.Therefore, whenever you perceive the presence of this uncomfortable companion, you must urge it to leave as soon as possible. First, you need to know where it came from and why.

Woman covered in leaves and apathy.

What is the origin of apathy?

There is no one single origin of apathy. It may be due to multiple factors and you should certainly take all of them into consideration. They are as follows:

Organic factors

  • Anemia.
  • Certain infections.
  • A weak immune system.
  • Nutritional deficiencies.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Thyroid problems.
  • Possible onset of dementia. In fact, you should keep in mind that apathy is one of the most common neuropsychiatric symptoms in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Likewise, brain injuries due to traumatic accidents can also be the cause of apathy.
  • Improper functioning of the limbic system or the connection between the frontal cortex and the basal ganglia.
  • Substance abuse.

Psychological factors

  • Bipolar disorder.
  • Major depression.
  • Dysthymia.
  • High levels of anxiety.

Environmental factors

Sometimes you find yourself in certain environments where you can’t find any positive stimuli. You find nothing but negative, stressful, or uninteresting stimuli. Living in environments like this can naturally take you toward depressive thoughts and a state of mind marked by apathy.

Living or working in situations where nothing seems attractive and you feel trapped by routine or stress often leads to frustration and apathy.

A man with indifference looking out a window.

How to deal with apathy

Once all organic problems have been ruled out, it’s time for you to put certain exercises, strategies, and approaches into practice to eradicate apathy from your body and mind. That said, there’s one fact you can’t neglect. No advice will help you if you don’t change your way of thinking first.

Regardless of what triggered this state of lethargy and loss of motivation, you have to understand that what keeps you trapped in it is your perspective. That’s why we say it’s more useful to first try to “fix” what’s inside your mind. Remember that the outside world is, as a general rule, outside your control.

  • Psychological therapy focused on cognitive restructuring.
  • Breaking out of your routine, trying new activities, changing environments, meeting new people, finding new interests.
  • Physical exercise and eating a balanced diet.
  • Being in touch with nature.
  • Practicing disciplines such as yoga or mindfulness.
A woman doing yoga outdoors.

In conclusion, a good way to banish apathy from your mind and heart is to commit yourself to life in a more creative way. Getting to know yourself better and setting new goals can help give you a fresh view of the world. Have hope and blow away the stale air of apathy and lethargy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.