Avolition, as a symptom of various forms of psychopathology, is the decrease in the motivation to initiate and perform self-directed purposeful activities. Such activities that appear to be neglected usually include routine activities, including hobbies, going to work and/or school, and most notably, engaging in social activities. A person experiencing avolition may stay at home for long periods of time, rather than seeking out work or peer relations.
Identified as a “negative” symptom of the psychotic disorder Schizophrenia by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in 2006, avolition can be confused with other similar symptoms. Negative symptoms can be understood as the decrease or removal of an otherwise normative affective or motivational feature of cognition. Asociality, anhedonia, blunted affect, and alogia are negative symptoms frequently confused with avolition.
- Asociality is the decrease in interest and motivation in forming relationships.
- Anhedonia is the absence of experiencing pleasure.
- Blunted affect (sometimes referred to as “flat” or “restricted” affect) is the reduction in outward displays of emotional expression.
- Alogia is the significant decrease or reduction in speech output.
Although each negative symptom does reflect similar aspects, each needs to be differentiated properly in order to provide effective treatment.
It is also one of the predominant symptoms of clinical depression. It is sometimes mistaken for disinterest, anhedonia and amotivation, but is distinct. People with avolition may want to complete certain tasks but lack the ability to initiate behaviours necessary to complete them. Literally meaning "poverty of will," it is a restriction in the initiation of activity, including, but not limited to, goal directed behavior. In contrast, abulia (poverty of motivation) - is a restriction in will or motivation, often characterized by an inability to set goals or make decisions.
Psychopathology in which avolition is a symptom, may be a chronic experience. Although medications are often a first line of defense, several aspects of a patient's life are not likely to improve as a result of psychopharmacology. WIthin a biopsychosocial model, the manifestation of schizophrenia and depression are influenced by psychological, social, and genetic factors
Patients are faced with the stresses of coping with and accepting a mental illness and the stigma that often accompanies such a diagnosis. Among others, loss, anger, and denial are likely emotions that have to be processed. The family and friends are affected, and need to learn to live and cope with the consequences of having a loved one diagnosed with a mental illness. These are all aspects of illness that cannot be treated with medication. 
Psychotherapy, sometimes referred to as "talk therapy", can fulfill the place of medication in helping to improve these other aspects of a patient's life.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association
- Castonguay, L., & Oltmanns, T. (2013). General Issues in Understanding and Treating Psychopathology. Psychopathology: From Science to Clinical Practice (pp. 5-6). New York: Guildford Publications.
- Schizophrenia Symptoms. (2012). Avolition. Understand Schizophrenia. Retrieved from http://www.understand-schizophrenia.com/psychotherapy-for-schizophrenia.html
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