Avolition, as a symptom of various forms of psychopathology, is the decrease in the motivation to initiate and perform self-directed purposeful activities.
Funny, you know I never looked up the definition of this word until now. I just thought of it as lack of willpower.
I guess it’s pretty much the same thing as I thought. It is interesting to me, however, that this definition boils it down to a lack of motivation. I’m not sure I agree.
Generally, I have plenty of motivation. Plenty of good reasons to do things. What I lack is the wherewithal to put anything in motion.
Avolition is a symptom of my illness, you see, and it works on me in the worst ways.
Basically, this symptom makes it a monumental struggle to do… well… anything.
From making the bed to maintaining friendships, from getting a little exercise to pursuing a career… avolition saps me of the drive to do things I should.
Sometimes when I’m hungry, I can’t get going to feed myself. Even when I need to use the restroom, it can be an effort to get myself just to go take care of business.
On the face of it, avolition looks like severe laziness and procrastination and neglect. But the fact of the matter is that it is a symptom of mental illness.
When I say that it works on me in the worst ways, I am referring to how this symptom exacerbates the overall illness, cycling on itself and snowballing. Avolition often prevents me from leaving my apartment, from engaging in social activities, and the resultant isolation and alienation worsen my condition, which in turn worsens my avolition. You see the downward spiral.
Have you ever come across the acronym CBA? It is pretty common in the UK and elsewhere. It stands for Can’t Be Arsed – as in – I can’t be arsed to cook today, so I’ll just have something easy – or – My boss told me to smile more, but I can’t be arsed to force false enthusiasm. That kind of thing.
Well, avolition is the ultimate CBA. I often can’t be arsed to open mail promptly and pay bills on time, for example. Even though I know that this is something I must do, that if I don’t, the power will be shut off and my phone go dead and my ass be evicted, still, in the moment, I just can’t work up the gumption to do it. It’s crippling. Potentially devastating.
As I live with schizophrenia, and with this symptom in particular, I find certain coping mechanisms which help. Rewarding myself (albeit usually in unwholesome ways) can work. That’s simple enough. When I get my taxes done, I’ll have some beer. Then there is pairing the activity I can’t get started with an activity I enjoy, like having a cigarette. Say what you will about the negatives of smoking tobacco, it is a great motivator and method of mollification for me personally. Get’s me out of bed. Hell, I smoke in the shower.
The greatest motivator for me, I think, is to remind myself of what torment it was to be in full-blown psychosis, and to acknowledge that if I let everything slide due to avolition, I will be right back in that mental self-torture again. This knowledge is why I am functional.
I can’t let the illness get the best of me. There’s kind of a point of no return, you see, where hallucinations and delusions can supplant reality to the extent that I will no longer realize that I am mentally ill. It is quite possible for me to lose insight into the ways in which my skewed worldview differs from the worldview of others, from received reality.
I fight avolition tooth and nail to keep from reaching that point of no return.