What is avolition?
It is okay to feel like doing nothing, especially when you have an annoying chores pending. But if it has become your habit to putting off your work often, this will be called avolition. Basically, avolition is a lack of motivation completely, and it becomes really hard to do anything. It becomes impossible for you to start or complete even the simplest of daily tasks. Getting off the bed and cleaning the room or going to the grocery store feels like climbing a mountain.
This article is all about avolition; you will be able to know about its avolition definition, examples, and what are the treatment options if you are dealing with this. So let’s get started.
Avolition is often a symptom of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. In the case of schizophrenia, symptoms are categorized as negative or positive. People usually have a combination of two. Avolition is considered among negative symptoms. Negative symptoms include loss of ability to do things or experience them. In schizophrenia, avolition examples may include the inability to participate in recreational activities or work or care for personal hygiene.
Keep reading the article, and you will know more about this but first, here is a proper avolition definition for you to understand the concept:
“Avolition” is a term used to describe the lack of motivation or ability to do tasks or activities that have an end goal, such as paying bills or attending a school or work.
You might be looking for a simple avolition example. Let me share some with you:
- If you have avolition, you might find yourself not washing or grooming yourself the way you should do.
- You might plan meetings or events, but you never show up to these.
- When your friends call, text or email, you do not respond.
- You do not put effort into doing your school or work project.
- You do not pay your bills
Signs of Avolition
A person suffering from avolition may not want to participate in normal activities or withdraw from every kind of social contact. They have no excitement for anything, and they do not find life enjoyable. Their emotions may get dulled, and conversations might be way too little. The overall motivation of the individual is gone.
People usually mistake avolition for depression which is wrong. It is identified in most cases when a person is showing positive symptoms of schizophrenia. It is very important to understand that a person with avolition is not avoiding social contact or normal activities; the individual just does not have the ability to act.
Avolition can affect every aspect of your life, your studies, relationships, work, and everything. A person suffering from avolition may experience the following things:
- The individual does not make eye contact while talking to someone or when spoken to
- Completely halted or limited speech
- Does not participate at all in gatherings or events
- tries to avoid receiving or making phone calls
- finds it difficult to start or complete projects
- Shows no excitement for special events or occasions
- finds it difficult to make appointments, like for tax preparation or doctor
It is nothing like laziness
You might take it like the laziness of a person or irresponsibility; however, it is nothing like that. Such people have no ability to act. Simply it can be like someone is paralyzed by an inability to anticipate or apathy. In contrast to that, laziness is a willful act and has nothing to do with a mental health disorder.
Avolition definition psychology
The avolition definition of psychology is not that simple. Avolition is among the most common schizophrenia symptoms and has also been seen in some other neurological or mental health disorders. Avolition definition psychology, that what can be a cause of avolition, is not that clear. But there are certain characters that may play their part like:
Drugs used in the treatment of schizophrenia
Avolition is also a side effect of some medicines. These usually include antipsychotic drugs that are used for the treatment of schizophrenia.
Chemicals in brain
Some scientists also believe that the way avolition is linked with schizophrenia has something to do with a chemical in the brain called dopamine. This brain chemical is involved with the reward system of your brain. According to one theory decrease in dopamine causes avolition. When levels of dopamine are decreased, you have less motivation, and you may not want to participate in any task if you think that you will not get the reward for that.
Other causes of avolition may include some genetic factors, brain development or complications during pregnancy or childbirth. People who do not get mental stimulation as needed might also get affected with avolition. For instance, if you sit in your bed all day alone, maybe because of illness, you might get it. This can also happen to the prisoners held in solitary confinement.
Avolition is also a symptom of depression, as mentioned above and some other mental health conditions like:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Bipolar disorder
- Traumatic brain injury
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD)
- Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Only a mental health professional like a psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose and help you deal with it. You will need to see one of these doctors if you have symptoms of severe depression, schizophrenia or other mental health disorders responsible for avolition.
If your doctor thinks that it is because of schizophrenia, the doctor will try to rule out injuries, drugs, or any kind of other medical conditions that can cause symptoms like schizophrenia. To get diagnosed with schizophrenia, you must have at least two of these symptoms.
- Disorganized speech, for instance, jumping from one topic to other topic or use of different words that don’t make sense.
- Disorganized behaviour, for instance, not moving (catatonic)or acting in a weird or unusual way.
- What usually are known as “negative” symptoms, like a flat tone to your voice, low ability to enjoy life, or simply avolition
It is still unknown why people develop negative symptoms, for instance in avolition. When someone has more than two negative symptoms for more than a year but was clinically stable, they might have deficit schizophrenia syndrome. Stats have shown that almost 25% of those who are suffering from schizophrenia have this syndrome. Those suffering from this syndrome have more severe negative symptoms that are even more difficult to treat. However, positive symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions may seem more dangerous; negative symptoms have a greater effect on the ability of a person to function.
Some negative symptoms of schizophrenia resemble avolition. Mental health professionals usually combine some of these symptoms as a single one. So your doctor may use a questionnaire to understand your symptoms and find out if you have avolition or one of the following symptoms:
Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure or anticipating rewards. This can lead to feel lack of motivation.
Flat affect or affective blunting
When someone is not able to express his feelings, it is called flat affect or blunting. You can notice a lack of emotional expression by the body language of a person or the way the individual is speaking.
This includes the issues with speaking or dealing with your part of the conversation. This can include not answering or asking questions during a conversation. People suffering from Alogia cannot think properly and follow a conversation, especially when the speaker shifts from one topic to another.
A lot of people who are suffering from schizophrenia find it difficult to concentrate or focus. They are not able to remove and eliminate unwanted stimulations and noises. They may also have problematic memory.
It is related to the lack of awareness or insight used to describe a person’s ability to identify that they are suffering from a mental health problem. About 50% of people who are suffering from schizophrenia do not know about their issue. Anosognosia is the main reason most people suffering from this disease do not take their medications.
Generally, avolition treatment is difficult as a symptom is defined by the absence of emotion or behaviour rather than the presence of one. Negative symptoms are even more difficult to deal with as compared to positive symptoms. Moreover, there is nothing like the ideal treatment in this case. When it comes to diseases like avolition associated with schizophrenia major aim of treatment is to reduce or eliminate positive symptoms. It is because positive symptoms are easy to define and are a bit more dramatic. Even if somehow positive symptoms are controlled with antipsychotics or other drugs, negative symptoms will still remain. Currently, there are no drugs available to deal with these.
People suffering from avolition may feel better by the use of some medications and therapies, but because of the nature of this disorder, it is difficult for them to seek or adhere to the avolition treatment.
In order to treat positive symptoms of schizophrenia-like hallucinations and delusions, antipsychotic medications are most effective. They work by balancing the levels of the neurotransmitter in our brains. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that help brain cells communicate with each other. Stats showed that antipsychotic medications are effective in four out of five people. But some antipsychotic medications may increase avolition in addition to some other negative symptoms.
Some common antipsychotic medications that are taken orally are:
- haloperidol (Haldol)
- cariprazine (Vraylar)
- clozapine (Clozaril)
- quetiapine (Seroquel)
- aripiprazole (Abilify)
Their side effects may include:
- sexual problems
- sluggishness or slowness
- abnormal movement of the jaw and tongue
These side effects are common. But many people have few side effects if they use some newer antipsychotic medication like
- Risperidone (Risperdal)
- Ziprasidone (Geodon)
- Iloperidone (Fanapt)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Aripiprazole (Abilify)
- Brexpiprazole (Rexulti)”
They may experience increased levels of cholesterol, triglycerides or blood sugar. Not all antipsychotic medications are given orally; some are given an injection every two or four weeks or four times a year. These are helpful for those who do not take their medications regularly and forget to do so.
Sometimes antidepressants are also prescribed to take with these medications.
Therapies are best in dealing with any kind of mental health disorder. But in the case of avolition, these are only effective if a person takes their medications properly. Cognitive behavioural therapy, cognitive enhancement therapy and talking therapy can prove very helpful for those who are dealing with avolition. These therapies can help them in gaining the necessary skills that are needed to function in daily life. If antipsychotic medications are not helpful, electroconvulsive therapy may also be recommended by a mental health provider.
Avolition is the worst; it can diminish your desire to participate in social activities. You find no attraction in setting and achieving new goals or do not have any interest in doing daily chores. It can affect your relationship with your family, friends and partner, as people usually think that it is because of your laziness or you are just irresponsible. It may have a bad impact on your work life too.
But with the appropiate treatment and support of your loved ones, it is possible to cope with these kinds of negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Just treatment is not enough; you have to fully involve yourself if you want to get out of this mess. Treatment options I have discussed above, let’s have a look at what you can do on your own to deal with this in addition to treatment.
Take your medications on time.
People who are dealing with schizophrenia and avolition find it difficult to perform simple tasks. They also are not aware of their disease, so taking medications is on time and regularly can be a tough task. In such a condition taking your medications properly is necessary. Your doctor has prescribed you the right medication for you, but the doctor will not be there to make you take these properly. It is your responsibility to take your medications properly and never stop unless directed by your mental health provider.
Never miss your therapy sessions.
Only medication or only therapy never works. You have to take medication and also go to your therapy sessions regularly. If you miss one, you might not be able to deal with your issues probably. You might think that you are taking medication and that is enough, or you might not feel like going all the way your therapist to attend the session, but it is not good. If you want to better understanding of avolition and want to know about the strategies to deal with it, never miss your sessions. Moreover, work on the strategies your mental health provider designs for you so that you can harness physical and mental energies to complete your daily tasks and meet obligations.
Find support from your loved ones.
You might feel you don’t want to connect with your friends and family because you do not feel the desire or think you can do this alone. But believe me, it is easier to deal with avolition if your loved ones are around you and understand your condition. Do not be afraid to tell your friends and family that you are dealing with avolition, and it is nothing like procrastination or laziness. They can help you in creating a schedule for your therapy and medications. They can also help you make a time table for your daily chores or bill paying, groceries, appointments, etc.
Investing in the calendar can also help.
You might not be a calendar person who organizes every little meeting or task. But you have to be now. By this, I do not mean that you should buy a calendar and mark dates; you might still forget a lot of things if you do this. So what you should do now. The answer to this question is, use your smartphone. It can help you remember your appointments, and you can also keep track of your daily tasks, what you have done so far and what you have pending. You can set reminders of your important meetings; this way, you can also prepare yourself for the meetings ahead.
A support group
It becomes easy to deal with something when you are around people who understand and find that people are dealing with the same thing. That is how a support group works. You can find plenty of online and in-person support group of people who are dealing with schizophrenia and avolition; you can join any of them. You can share your experience about how you are dealing with all this and gain insight from others living with schizophrenia.
How to help someone who is dealing with avolition?
It can be very challenging for you to care for someone and for someone you are caring for. Accepting help from someone is difficult, especially when one feels like it is not needed. It is also very difficult to offer someone help when the individual does not appreciate it. It is necessary for you to be patient with the person you are caring for. Remember, together; you can handle any difficulty that comes your way.
Here are some approaches you can try:
- Make a schedule for the person you are caring for that includes grooming, therapy timing, taking medications, bedtime, meal times and other daily activities so that they can follow this. Post it in a calendar or list format where it will work as a reminder.
- Keep a check on them, whether they are taking their medications properly or not. Keep notes of everything for the doctor on how they respond to medications or are there any side effects.
- Your communication with them must be simple. If you are going to give them any instructions, make sure that these are simple so that they can understand.
- Be encouraging and keep yourself calm. I know it is going to be very difficult but if you really want to help you have to do this. Instead of nagging, use kind reminders.
- Their condition may get very serious, so you need to be prepared for that too. Always keep a handy list that includes the contact information of the hospital and doctor. Make sure that you have transportation when you need it. If there is a crisis, arrange a family member or friend who can help as a driver or helper at that time.
Here are some comments of users of Reddit about Avolition, how they are dealing with and what has proven helpful for them:
“It can be found in people without schizophrenia – very severe cases of endogenous depression, as well as bipolar disorder, can also feature avolition. However, it is not a diagnosis but a symptom; you won’t find avolition by itself anywhere for this reason. Its underlying causes are not known for sure but are thought to be related to functional errors in what we call the reward network; an excellent, more in-depth explanation can be found on PubMed: Neural Basis of Anhedonia and Amotivation in Patients with Schizophrenia. Why it is considered a hallmark negative symptom is something I can only surmise rather than clearly answer — it is an extremely prevalent symptom amongst schizophrenics, highly disruptive to the patient’s life and social functioning and easy to notice in ways some symptoms may not be as patients are able to conceal it. Negative symptoms also generally appear before the onset of positive ones, and notable avolition can make it easier to evaluate for and make a diagnosis of schizophrenia, allowing the patient to receive necessary care. Therefore, it is a useful diagnostic negative symptom as well as an indicator for needs for specific treatment.”
“Anhedonia, apathy and avolition seem like three sides to the same (misshapen) coin to me. Have you ever overcome one but continued to struggle with the others? Anyway, my suggestion is to try meditation. Just 2*10 minutes a day. I’m not the best role model because I’ve been neglecting doing it lately, but when I did have a habit, it helped me overcome all three As to some extent.”
“Force yourself into situations where you absolutely have no choice but to do the desired activity. For example, I had to read this book for school, and there was no chance it was going to be read at home, so I met a friend at the library bringing only my phone and my book, entrusted my phone to him, and now I basically have to deal with the book because I have nothing else to do. Getting a friend also creates pressure and helps you stay on task. In your situation, I would grab a few books and just take a train to nowhere in particular. And then just read on the train because you have nowhere else to go. Use your environment to shape your behaviour this way.”
Avolition is a symptom of schizophrenia, most commonly and some other mental health disorders. It falls under the category of negative symptoms, so it is very difficult to treat. For treatment, some medications and therapies are suggested. With proper treatment, symptoms can be controlled, and a person can lead a productive and independent life.
In this article, “Avolition“, I have tried my best to share useful information; I hope you will find it helpful.