People with schizophrenia may experience some degree of avolition, which is a lack of motivation to accomplish goals, even if there is a positive outcome involved.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental health condition that can affect a person’s thought processes, perceptions, emotions, and social interactions.

Avolition is a type of negative symptom of schizophrenia that relates to a reduced production of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in motivation and pleasure.

This article explains the connection between schizophrenia and avolition.

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In the context of schizophrenia, avolition refers to a lack of motivation or willingness to complete tasks or goals, even if it involves a reward.

Some research suggests that people with more severe cases of schizophrenia experience more severe avolition, even if the reward for completing the task is high. Additionally, the researchers note that the reduced motivational symptoms correlate with reduced activity in the brain’s ventral striatum. The brain’s ventral striatum, the areas of the brain that control motivation and emotional processing, has links to dopaminergic neurons, which are the main source of dopamine in the brain.

Examples of avolition

Avolition affects a person’s daily life. It can appear in various ways, such as:

  • not paying bills on time
  • not showering
  • avoiding grocery shopping
  • not taking medications as a doctor has prescribed
  • letting household chores such as dishes and laundry pile up
  • difficulty completing work-related or school-related tasks at all or on time
  • lack of motivation to work toward big-picture life goals such as buying a house or applying for a new job

Read more about avolition.

Avolition is what doctors refer to as a negative symptom of schizophrenia. Doctors use the positive and negative syndrome scale to measure the severity of schizophrenia. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), negative symptoms refer to those that involve withdrawing from the world and a lack of experiencing pleasure and emotion.

Positive symptoms involve changes in behaviors and thoughts, such as delusions and confused thinking and speech.

Learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Up to 60% of people with schizophrenia experience avolition, abulia, anhedonia, and asociality and require treatment. Each symptom has similarities and differences with abolition, and one can relate to another.


While avolition involves a person’s inability or lack of motivation to achieve goals, abulia refers to a lack of drive or will to make goals or plans. Some experts use abulia interchangeably with the word apathy.


Anhedonia refers to a lack of ability to experience pleasure. This relates to avolition because achieving a goal or accomplishing a task can be more difficult if someone does not experience a sense of reward or achievement after completing a task.


Asociality refers to a loss of motivation or interest in socializing with others. Like avolition, this symptom has links to a lack of pleasure, so finding the motivation to socialize can be difficult. People who experience asociality may withdraw socially, even from close friends and family members.

Research suggests that antidepressants such as citalopram may help with negative symptoms of schizophrenia, such as avolition. However, certain antidepressants may have negative interactions with antipsychotic medications that target the positive symptoms of schizophrenia.

There is currently no medication that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved as an effective treatment for the negative symptoms of schizophrenia. Therefore, researchers agree that there needs to be more research on this topic.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another treatment that may help with avolition. However, older research indicates that it should be part of a combination treatment and not the sole treatment method. It may help with the persistent positive and negative symptoms in people who experience incomplete remission of antipsychotics.

Learn more about treatment for schizophrenia.

One primary key to coping with avolition is following the treatment plan that a healthcare and mental health professional has devised. This means taking prescription medications and attending therapy sessions as they recommend. However, other self-care strategies can help in conjunction with prescribed schizophrenia treatment.

For starters, reaching out to a support system can help someone with schizophrenia. Asociality can make it difficult for people with this condition to express when they are experiencing a relapse or increase in symptoms. Still, members of a support system can try to check in and keep the person accountable for taking their medication.

Avolition makes it difficult to take action, but the following tactics may provide some relief and even improve a person’s overall well-being:

  • making daily to-do lists that include even small tasks, such as showering
  • coming up with a reward system for completing tasks, such as going out for coffee or watching a favorite show
  • engaging in mindfulness meditations
  • joining a fitness class or group that encourages socialization, such as a book club
  • taking daily walks outside
  • aiming to eat a balanced diet
  • joining a support group

The following are answers to some questions people frequently ask about schizophrenia and avolition.

Why does schizophrenia cause avolition?

People with schizophrenia have structural abnormalities in the parts of their brain relating to motivation and reward. Typically, a person’s brain releases dopamine after completing a reward. However, those with schizophrenia have lower dopamine activity. So, they experience difficulty finding motivation to complete a task and experience less pleasure when they achieve a task.

What are the 5 A’s of schizophrenia?

Some people refer to the negative symptoms of schizophrenia as the 5 A’s. These include:

  • avolition: lack of motivation to achieve small tasks and big goals
  • affective flattening: reduced facial expressions
  • alogia: impaired thinking and speech
  • anhedonia: avoiding being around others
  • asociality: decreased interest in socializing

Avolition, a negative symptom of schizophrenia, involves a lack of motivation to achieve tasks, even with rewards. It has links to reduced dopamine production in the brain, which affects motivation and pleasure.

Examples of avolition include neglecting bills, skipping showers, avoiding groceries, and not tracking prescribed medications. It can hinder daily tasks and long-term goals such as buying a house or finding a job.

Avolition is one of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, which includes withdrawal from the world, diminished pleasure, and emotion. Unlike positive symptoms, such as delusions, negative symptoms signify a withdrawal from life. Citalopram, an antidepressant, may help with negative symptoms. However, there is a need for more research in this area. CBT and self-care can be an adjunct treatment.