Apathy and Parkinson's Disease

by  Bev Ribaudo,
July 03, 2014


This guest blog post was contributed by Bev Ribaudo, a person with Parkinson's disease who blogs at Parkinson's Humor.

Definition of Apathy:
1. Lack of passion, emotion, excitement
2. Lack of interest, a state of indifference
3. Lack of motivation

Apathy can be a major non-motor symptom of Parkinson's disease. Combine it with fatigue, another major non-motor symptom, and it's no wonder we Parkies can be seen as lazy, disinterested or uncaring by friends, family and even strangers.

What causes apathy in people with Parkinson's? It is believed to be due to chemical changes in the basal ganglia part of the brain. Dopamine is not only the primary neurotransmitter for motor control and movement, but it is also necessary for goal-oriented behavior, enjoyment and motivation. In other words, dopamine is our "feel good" chemical and as the dopamine levels in our brain get less and less, we no longer enjoy the things we used to and we become more apathetic. It's not that we don't care, it's that we can't care. Our dopamine deprived brains just don't work like they used to.

I am just as apathetic as the rest of you. I used to enjoy going to karaoke, but it's in the evening and by that time of day, I don't feel like going out. After dinner, it's easier to put on my pajamas and watch TV instead. I was never into card playing or crafts, and I'm not a reader, so I am bored, a lot. I have a problem with my neck/shoulder which is aggravated by computer use, so I don't even spend much time online. I'm not a cook and cleaning also aggravates my shoulder, so mostly, I do nothing (thank goodness my Wonderful Husband cooks and helps with the cleaning.) I have closets full of clothes I don't wear, so I can't even get interested in shopping.

I did, however, start walking again. I walk alone in the mornings and with a neighbor in the afternoon. I used to enjoy talking on my walks, but now I mostly listen, as I have developed some speech problems and I can tell people have a hard time understanding me.

About the only things I DO look forward to are social interactions with friends and neighbors. I usually don't say much (the speech thing), but I enjoy listening. I have always enjoyed being around people and I still do. Aside from that, there just isn't anything that interests me. I wish there was.

TAGS: Symptoms & Side Effects, Cognitive Changes, Living With Parkinson's Disease, Apathy, Non-Motor Symptoms

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