Avolition is a symptom of psychological or psychiatric distress characterized by a lack of motivation or drive. People with avolition have difficulty starting and completing tasks, and may be uninterested in the world around them. This symptom is often a part of schizophrenia, and can appear in people with bipolar disorder as well. Treatment depends on how severe it is, and what the cause is.
Many people have days where they have a tough time getting going, or don't feel like doing anything. For people with this condition, this is taken to an entirely new level. People may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, let alone engaging in routine tasks like shopping, cooking, cleaning, childcare, and going to work. This persists for days, and can become what is termed a “negative symptom” because it has a negative impact on the life of the patient.
Other issues can accompany avolition. People with this symptom may also demonstrate alogia, a lack of speech. Alogia can be total, with the patient simply not talking, or it may take the form of making short, clipped responses to questions and attempts at conversation. This can complicate therapy, as the patient may not communicate clearly enough for the therapist to get a read on what the patient is experiencing.
Avolition can also be accompanied by anhedonia, in which people receive no pleasure from the tasks they engage in. This can also complicate treatment. A patient might be encouraged to do something pleasurable and discover that the task is not fun or fulfilling, thus becoming reluctant to try again. People with this symptom also tend to have a flat affect emotionally, which can be disconcerting and may also make treatment harder because the patient appears to lack emotion.
Avolition is not the same thing as disinterest, although the two can seem similar. Treatment generally relies on determining the cause and addressing it. For example, if a patient develops this condition after a medication change, it would suggest the change was not effective. Likewise, the emergence of this symptom after trauma would suggest that the patient needs therapy and treatment for the trauma. Sometimes, all a patient needs is time and support.
Family members and caregivers of people who experience avolition and other intense psychological and psychiatric symptoms sometimes find it helpful to attend workshops and classes geared at caregivers. These courses can provide information about what people are experiencing, and what caregivers can do to help. Caregivers can also directly ask their charges about things which might be beneficial or helpful.