Stanford Parkinson's
Community Outreach

Apathy in PD

Apathy describes a lack of interest, enthusiasm or motivation. It is a non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and interferes with the effective management of PD symptoms, since apathetic people are less inclined to exercise and follow their medication schedules.  Here are some resources to understand apathy and how to cope with it.

Relevant Online Information

Published by the European Parkinson’s Disease Association (EPDA), February 2018
Apathy is a symptom of Parkinson’s.  The word comes from the Greek meaning ‘without passion.’  Someone with apathy shows a lack of interest, emotion and purpose.  Care givers and family members may feel the person is lazy or difficult.  This webpage discusses the reality of living with Parkinson’s and apathy.  It provides three rating scales to help diagnose apathy in Parkinson’s, medication and counseling options to treat apathy, education and lifestyle changes to relieve apathy symptoms.


Published by the Parkinson’s Foundation
This short resource distinguishes between depression and apathy.  It includes therapies and tips for living with apathy.


“Apathy: How to Combat,” by Dr. Maria De Leon
Published by, January 30, 2017
This blog post distinguishes between apathy and indifference.  Both require evaluation by your physician, neurologist, or MD.  Dr. De Leon includes a how those evaluations should be thoroughly done, and includes treatment options for both.


“Are You Feeling Apathetic?” by Lauren Stroshane
Published by the Stanford PD Community Blog, February 19, 2020
On January 31st, PMD Alliance hosted a webinar on apathy .  These webinar notes highlight the impact apathy has on those with Parkinson’s as well as caregivers, and the importance of diagnosing and treating it.  Firsthand accounts from those coping with apathy as a symptom of PD demonstrate that lifestyle changes and support go a long way toward maintaining a good quality of life despite feelings of apathy. 


“Ask the MD: Apathy and Parkinson’s Disease”
Published by the Michael J. Fox Foundation, January 12, 2016
This post in the Foxfeed Blog explains apathy is a non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s disease, the symptoms, potential consequences, diagnosis, behavioral adjustments to help live with apathy and medication options.


“Apathy and Parkinson’s Disease,” by Dr. Rebecca Gilbert
Published by the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA), August 20, 2019
Apathy is a feeling of indifference or lack of interest or motivation in activities.  It is a non-motor symptom of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and can be frustrating for both the person with PD and for care partners, friends and family.  It can occur along with, or mimic, depression or cognitive decline.  Lifestyle changes that improve quality of life are outlined.


“Apathy and Parkinson’s Disease,” by Heather Simpson
Published by the University of Florida Center for Movement Disorders and Neurorestoration College of Medicine, November 26, 2013
This 1-page article provides specific tips to increase participation in needed and desired activities in spite of the symptoms of apathy.


“Apathy and Parkinson’s Disease, Does it Really Matter?" by Soania Mathur, MD
Published by, January 29, 2020 
This 1-page article emphasizes Parkinson’s disease is no longer just a movement disorder, but symptoms, like apathy, require active management.  It recommends medication treatments and specific lifestyle changes to better cope.


Relevant Online Lectures and Webinars

"Apathy or Depression: Which One Is It?"
By the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (Now the Parkinson's Foundation), June 14, 2016
This 68-minute audio lecture with coordinated slide presentation features Dawn Bowers, Ph.D., speaking on the differences and overlapping aspects of apathy and depression; the difficulty in diagnosing for people with Parkinson’s disease and treatments for both.


“Apathy and Parkinson’s”
By Parkinson’s Disease Care New York, July 25, 2018
This 30-minute episode 4, season 2 of Parkinson’s TV is an interview of two professionals, a woman with PD and her spouse.  The conversation distinguishes apathy from depression as both are symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.  The focus is on how apathy affects both the person with PD and those who care for them and what can be done to overcome apathy and relieve caregiver burden.  Five minutes are spent interviewing a neurologist in Spain for an international perspective of PD.


Last updated by Denise Dagan, April 2020.

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