Avolition (A complete review)

What is Avolition?

Avolition is often considered a symptom of schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects the process of thinking, feeling and acting.

It is also considered as a sign of extensive depression and one of the symptoms used to diagnose major depressive disorder.

This term is used to explain or describe the lack of motivation and ability or energy to do ordered tasks or activities.

These can be as simple as paying gas bills or keeping up on personal hygiene and as significant as attending a wedding ceremony or showing up for work.

Avolition mostly occurs in schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder.

Avolition is also taken as a symptom of various forms through much of psychopathology.

It is basically understood to be the increase or complete lack of the energy and motivation to perform the assigned tasks and activities.

This symptom can be so overwhelming that eventually there is a complete un-engagement in the assigned goal and energy seems to be drained out of the person who has to perform the task. 

It can be so crippling that he or she is unable to even start or follow through on a course of action.

A person experiencing avolition is often described as staying at home for long periods of time and avoiding contact with his peers. It can seem like they seek loneliness and self meditation.

However, it is likely they feel like they lack the energy or motivation required to complete these engagements. 

Any activities such as school or hobbies may be disengaged from with the ultimate culmination in symptoms being a complete removal from most if not all social activities or engagements. 

People affected with avolition generally want to complete the tasks but they can’t do so because of lacking the ability or motivation to initiate the activity.

This disorder is also seen as a  symptom of many other mental disorders.

However, it can be taken in the context of other primary clinical disturbances when seen against disordered or poorly constructed motivation.

In the year 2006, avolition was identified and announced as a negative symptom of schizophrenia by NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health).

Sometimes, avolition is taken mistakenly for other disorders which also tend to affect the motivation process like aboulia, anhedonia and asociality.

For example, aboulia, which also stops the motivation or the initiation of action, is characterized by the inability to set the aim or goals and decision making process can often be confused with avolition.

Detection of Avolition is a very critical process and diagnosis is best completed by a medical professional.

Avolition (A complete review)


Social and Clinical Implications:

Changes in social life or social habits is often one of the first signs of avolition.

A person who is not able to complete their normal activities is susceptible to a significant number of consequences regarding incompletion.

By breaking relations with people, both those close to you and also anyone you would normally interact with in everyday life, there are social and psychological repercussions.

This can even have an effect on one’s  ability to drink, eat and sleep properly.

Clinically, it is very difficult to engage an individual with avolition to participate in the process of f.

By engaging in the process or therapy there are significant stressors of coping and aneed to accept the mental illness, two things that someone dealing with avolition may not feel they are capable of.

Fear is also generated when suffering from avolition which has a significant impact on outlook, including thoughts of never getting well and hopelessness.

The American Psychiatric Association reported in 2013 that there is no proper treatment with proven results for this disease currently.

They also specified that it is quite difficult to say whether or not it is related to any other disease.  


Psychiatric medication has been used to treat avolition.

However, no treatments have been found to completely improve every aspect of the affected person’s life.

Psychotherapy is also used  for the treatment of these symptoms even if medication has a positive effect.

Aripiprazole might be useful for the treatment of avolition.

Nonetheless, testing to see the impact on its role in body functioning  still needs to be done.

Avolition significantly reduces the number of dopaminergic neurons of the prefrontal cortex.

Dopamine levels accelerate in the prefrontal cortex by 40% when a diet high in Omega-3 fatty acids is consumed.

However, more studies on the impact of diet on avolition need to be completed.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) is a type of psychotherapy that seems to be very promising in treatment of avolition.

It is a very common type of therapy that clinicians practice and is often used with or without medication to treat the disorders that present with avolition as a symptom.

Lack of motivation towards an activity or a goal can be very problematic when it comes to maintaining a job.

It can force people into hardships as even starting the day seems too daunting of a task brushing  your teeth may feel like climbing Mount Everest.

If someone suffering from avolition does not seek  treatment then avolition can significantly impact every part of life, from relationships to business and internal or external feelings.

A few common disorder that can lead to avolition are listed as below:

  1. Bipolar Disorder
  2. Premenstrual dysphonic disorder (PDD)
  3. Traumatic Brain Injury
  4. Persistent depressive disorder 
  5. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  6. Schizophrenia 
  7. Major depressive disorder

It is best if avolition is treated as early as possible as the longer it persists the more hopeless the patient might be and the consequences may accompany the situation.

If you notice a family member or friend displaying symptoms of avolition reaching out and providing a targeted but understanding intervention can be helpful to minimize the impact of social isolation.

Treatment with medication can have adverse side effects which can sometimes lower the body’s immune system or lead to other cognitive disruption. 

                                        Often when someone is isolating themselves from others, they can feel trapped and unpleasant which can lead to more dissatisfaction and more isolation.

Focusing on maintaining a good diet and healthy daily routines have been shown to help with avolition.

Some therapists even recommend “fake it till you make it” as sometimes just going through the motions can help jumpstart the return of feelings or motivation.

Sharing the feelings one is experiencing with friends and family members can also aid in resolution of symptoms in some individuals.

This is why psychotherapy can be very helpful, finding someone to talk to, whether it is a therapist or some close to you can make a big difference.

 Frequently asked questions about avolition:

 What is an example of avolition?

“Avolition” is a term describing a lack of motivation or inability to complete tasks or activities that have an end goal, such as paying bills or attending events. Examples of avolition in schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder might be the lack of ability to care oneself or love ones or participate in activities usually which were found to be meaningful such as work or hobbies.

What causes avolition? 

There is budding scientific belief that there is a link between avolition and schizophrenia which  has to do with the brain chemical dopamine. Dopamine is involved with your brain’s reward system. A theory about why avolition occurs is that it can be traced to a drop in dopamine. A lack of dopamine in the brain, leads to a lack of motivation.

How do you treat Avolition?

There are a few medications used to treat avolition.  Most are atypical antipsychotics, such as Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Risperdal (risperidone).

Do I have Avolition?

When seeking help from a medical professional doctors may use a questionnaire to determine any symptoms and see if you have avolition or similar issues associated with it, such as alogia (lack of talking), asociality (not motivated to be social), or anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure, which can lead to a lack of motivation).

Want to learn more about avolition? Here are some recommended books about the topic:

The Gene: An Intimate History 

This is a deeply considered and gorgeously rendered work, part memoir and part clear-eyed assessment of the past, present and future of genetic study. Mukherjee, both a physician and gifted writer, begins by describing the several members of his family whose lives have been devastated by schizophrenia.

In order to better understand schizophrenia, he explains all of genetics generally, unraveling the fascinating story of how researchers have come to know what they do about genes.

Arriving in the present day about halfway through the book, he then shifts into exploring the ramifications of genetic knowledge today.

He discusses such matters as race and gender and identity and intergenerational trauma and psychiatric diagnoses like schizophrenia.

I think the world would be a better place if everybody read The Gene.

The Voices Within

An engaging popular science book that examines how little we understand the internal experiences of people generally — not only those diagnosed with schizophrenia. What is thought?

How do scientists study thought?

This book also provides an introduction to the Hearing Voices movement, a civil rights movement for self-identified voice-hearers that has emerged over the last three decades.

Fernyhough contemplates the voices “heard” by creative writers such as myself, and closely examines several historical and literary examples of this other sort of voice hearing.

Outside Mental Health

Hall is a therapist and self-identified schizophrenia survivor and host of the Madness Radio podcast.

This collection anthologizes many of the interviews he’s done on the show with people involved with efforts to reform mental health.

Together these conversations provide a wide range of points of view on so many matters related to psychiatric diagnosis and treatment and the status of persons given psychiatric diagnoses in our society, as well trauma, oppression, alternative conceptions of madness, and spirituality.

I’d most recommend this book, as well as his podcast, to anybody interested in hearing the perspectives of those who’ve been psychiatrically diagnosed about what has and hasn’t helped them live full and dignified lives.


  • En.wikipedia.org. 2020. Avolition. [online] Available at: <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avolition> [Accessed 17 April 2020].
  • Healthline. 2020. Avolition In Schizophrenia: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/schizophrenia/avolition> [Accessed 17 April 2020].
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Avolition (A complete review)