Apathy in PD

Downloadable Documents (PDF)

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.

Downloadable Documents | Online Articles | Podcasts & Webinars | Expert-level Resources

Apathy and Parkinson’s Disease

Published by the Parkinson’s Foundation, 2019

This 2-page fact sheet (PDF) explains there are three forms of apathy, that it is distinct from depression, and how it can be diagnosed.  It includes a brief discussion of research into a few medication treatment options and ongoing research to better understand apathy in PD.  Tips for coping with apathy are included.

Online Articles


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 webpage distinguishes between depression and apathy.  It includes therapies and tips for living with apathy.

Apathy: How to Combat

By Maria De León, MD.  Published by defeatparkinsons.com, January 30, 2017

Blogger Maria De León, retired neurologist and person with Parkinson's, distinguishes between apathy and indifference.  Both require thorough evaluation by your physician or neurologist.  Dr. De León includes treatment options for both.

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 short webpage 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 verywell.com, January 29, 2020 

This short 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.

Podcasts & 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 ParkinsonTV, July 25, 2018

This 30-minute episode of Parkinson’s TV (episode 4, season 2) is an interview of two professionals, a woman with PD and her spouse.  The conversation distinguishes apathy from depression.  The focus is on how apathy affects both the person with PD and those who care for them plus 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.
Webinar Notes on the Stanford PD Community Blog

Apathy vs. Depression in Parkinson's Disease

By PMD Alliance, January 31, 2020

Movement disorders specialist Scott Sherman, MD, PhD, speaks for about 30 minutes about the DSM-IV criteria for apathy and depression to explain how doctors diagnose these disorders. Although apathy, depression, and fatigue (and pain) are distinct symptoms of PD, they do overlap, complicating the diagnostic process. He talks about treatment options for apathy and depression, including DBS. The last 20 minutes are Q&A.

Are You Feeling Apathetic

By PMD Alliance, January 31, 2020

This one-hour webinar highlights 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.  
Webinar Notes on the Stanford PD Community Blog

Common signs of apathy and depression in Parkinson's patients

By Secret Life of Parkinson's, May 31, 2022

Episode 20 of this podcast is a 12-minute conversation between podcast hosts and people with young onset Parkinson's, Jessica Krauser and Brian Baker, about their experience of and the distinction between fatigue, depression, and apathy.


Mental Health and Parkinson's

By Parkinson Society British Columbia, March 30, 2021

In this 1-hour talk, clinical counselor Courtney Doherty describes depression, anxiety, and apathy -- all common changes in mood in Parkinson’s disease (PD).  And she provides extensive information for how these changes can be treated, particularly in non-pharmacological ways.


Motivation and Parkinson’s disease: A discussion on Apathy & Impulsivity

By Parkinson Canada, February 4, 2021

In this 50-minute talk, psychiatrist Mateusz Zurowski, MD, walks listeners through the non-motor Parkinson's symptoms of apathy and impulsivity. He explains why people with Parkinson's experience apathy and shares what the patient, care partners, and the medical team can do to help.

Rediscovering Motivation: Apathy Management and Coping Strategies

By the American Parkinson Disease Association, January 17, 2024

In this 48-minute talk, occupational therapist Linda Tickle-Degnen, PhD, OTR/L, provides an overview of the biological, psychological, and social factors associated with motivation and apathy while living with PD. She shares tips and strategies on how to cope with and manage difficult symptoms of Parkinson’s that can create loss of motivation and apathy, and how to choose activities and routines that can help you rediscover motivation in daily life.

Expert-Level Resources

Deconstructing Apathy in Parkinson's Disease: Challenges in Isolating Core Components of Apathy From Depression, Anxiety, and Fatigue

By Christian Ineichen and Heide Baumann-Vogel.  Published in Frontiers in Neurology, 26 August 2021. 

The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of apathy, depression, anxiety and fatigue and whether these syndromes are separable in PD.  Using confirmatory factor analysis, apathy could be separated from depression, anxiety and fatigue: Pure apathy, defined as loss of motivation and interest, could be dissociated from physical fatigue, loss of positive affect (anhedonia) and anxiety. This argues against the hypothesis that apathy might be a subcomponent of depression.

Last updated March 2024 by Stanford Parkinson's Community Outreach.