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Apathy, or Something Worse?

Apathy is defined as a lack of feeling or emotion, as well as a lack of concern or interest in regular life. Simply put, apathy is how you feel when you just don’t care. At some point in your life, you’ve likely felt apathetic; maybe you were just too tired or were listening to a boring conversation and couldn’t muster the energy to care. Although this sort of feeling may be fine in short spurts, apathy can be detrimental to the quality of one’s life, especially in college.  
It goes without saying that college is stressful, and that after months of relentless work, you can feel pretty drained. In those moments, you can find that it is easier to ignore the stress and work for a bit, instead hanging out with friends, regardless of the consequences. While that may be okay for a day or two, it can lead to problems in the long run. Suddenly you sit around every day, and your grades and GPA are affected, leading to academic problems and even the risk of dropping out. As dramatic as it sounds, this can be the reality of students who might suffer from serious issues such as depression.  
Even if you aren’t depressed, apathy is never good to have all the time. However, things can be done to prevent this emotional decline.

Image taken from www.pnlnet.com  

According to the College Parent Center there are a couple contributing factors to becoming apathetic. The first factor is time management and self regulation. If not carefully maintained, a lack of time management can lead to trouble getting things done on time, leading to extra stress. A second factor is the increase in independence, since students are now living on their own and have to create a new life and friend group despite not knowing anyone. While these issues primarily affect freshman, upperclassmen have problems of their own. 
Another factor visible in all age groups is stress. If not properly dealt with, unmanaged stress can eat a person from the inside out until they don’t have the energy to care or to deal with their problems. While self-care can temporarily reduce stress, it is not a cure. Apathy is an emotional reaction and a state of mind that a person can adopt to. 
In general, though, the spike in apathy among students is because of the increase in depression on college campuses. In 2014, the American Psychological Association (APA) published an article that reported that about one-third of college students said they had difficulty functioning due to depression; more than half said that they felt overwhelmed with anxiety.  
Sadness is only a small part of depression. Some people with depression may not feel sadness at all, but may be more irritable, or just lose interest in things that they usually like to do. It is easy to see how apathy and depression can be connected, but it has to be noted that apathy does not automatically equal depression. It’s just a symptom of the illness. Other symptoms of depression, according to the APA, can include:  

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism  
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and helplessness  
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities  
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or a feeling of being “slowed down”  
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions  
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping  
  • Appetite and/or unwanted weight changes  
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts  
  • Restlessness and irritability  
  • Persistent political symptoms, such as muscle pain or headaches  

Not every person who is suffering from depression will have every symptom, but if some signs are seen, it might be beneficial to get help from the Office of Counseling and Psychological Services or a private therapist.  
A lot of people who are apathetic might just be stressed out at the moment, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take note. If you or someone you know seems to be seriously troubled with serious signs and symptoms of depression, it is paramount to get help. In case help is desperately needed, call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) or get resources on their website.