Apathy: a neuropsychiatric syndrome

J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1991 Summer;3(3):243-54. doi: 10.1176/jnp.3.3.243.


Traditionally, apathy has been viewed as a symptom indicating loss of interest or emotions. This paper evaluates evidence that neuropsychiatric disorders also produce a syndrome of apathy. Both the symptom and the syndrome of apathy are of conceptual interest because they signify loss of motivation. An apathy syndrome is defined as a syndrome of primary motivational loss, that is, loss of motivation not attributable to emotional distress, intellectual impairment, or diminished level of consciousness. Loss of motivation due to disturbance of intellect, emotion, or level of consciousness defines the symptom of apathy. Neuropsychiatric literature dealing with apathy is reviewed within the framework of three approaches to defining the concept of a syndrome. Clinical and investigative approaches for evaluating apathy when it occurs in association with other syndromes are described.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Affective Symptoms / classification
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis*
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Arousal
  • Humans
  • Motivation*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / classification
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Neurocognitive Disorders / psychology
  • Socialization
  • Syndrome