Dr. Smartass

Why, You Apathetic Little…

Staring at a computer screen all day can leave you feeling listless. But is apathy a legitimate reason to call in sick? The science community can’t decide.

By (@doctorsmartass)

August 23, 2009

Got a question for Dr. Smartass? E-mail doc [at] esarcasm.com.

Dr. SmartassFinding yourself unable to focus on your work lately? Feeling like the only thing worth finishing is your semidaily porn session? Then you, my friend, have some serious issues (that use lots of tissues!). But, the good news is, you aren’t alone.

Apathy, you see, is a common condition among Westerners — and not just geeks, either. In fact, it may soon be good enough to get you out of a day’s work. Maybe.

From my trusty inbox:

Dear Dr. Smartass,

I sit around doing nothing all day. I can’t motivate myself to get a job, find a girlfriend, or do much other than watch videos of cute kitties on YouTube. Could there be something actually wrong with me?

-James S.

Ah, James, my dear dilly-dallying disciple! You have absolutely nothing to fear. Yet.

Scientists have been debating for years whether to make apathy an officially recognized psychological disorder. It’s currently on the menu for inclusion in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible of psychologists everywhere (and my all-time favorite piece of leisure reading — I simply cannot stop reading the section on compulsive behavior!).

ApathyBeing apathetic, some believe, is as legit of a medical issue as having the flu. I would tell you more myself, but I’ve inexplicably lost interest…so I’ll turn to one of my colleagues for an assist.

“Patients who are apathetic do not take care of themselves as well as patients who are not apathetic,” argues Dr. James D. Duffy, an extraordinarily well-groomed professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “Funding research is vital if we are actually going to move forward in advancing our understanding of the development and treatment of this disorder.”

Unfortunately, apathy has yet to climb over that hurdle and actually become a disorder. Quite simply, no one’s taken any initiative on securing its place in the diagnostic manual; aside from Duffy, we doctors are all just rather indifferent to the idea.

Until next time,

Dr. Smartass

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