I’m not a mental health professional, but I am someone who has battled with depression for years. One of the things that I’ve learned is that depression doesn’t always present as sadness or isolation. Sometimes looking for clues or symptoms of depression can be a tricky process especially when we look for familiar tell-tale signs such as sadness, anxiety, irritability, or fatigue.
For some, depression can lead to disassociation and indifference for self and others. There was a point in my life that I felt apathetic towards myself and events that occurred in the world. As much as I tried to feel compassion or empathy, I felt indifferent to my own pain and the pain of others. I felt as if I didn’t recognize myself because I’ve always been told that I “care too much”. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel motivated to care about what was happening around me or to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t care, it was that I felt nothing. This feeling of emptiness is more challenging than feeling anger, sadness, or pain. It sets off a vicious cycle or indifference, guilt, and shame.
I felt guilty for not being able to care, and I felt ashamed that I was helping others to be more compassionate when I struggled with compassion. I wanted to care but it felt like too much effort.
Compassion makes you feel alive and taking compassionate action gives you a sense of purpose. Apathy makes you go through the motions without thought or feeling. If I were to compare them, compassion is striving and apathy is living.
I want to be clear that apathy may not be a symptom of a depressive disorder but if you have noticed that you are not detached, numb or unconcerned with events or things you used to care about, it might be a good idea to explore what is going on.
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