Nowadays, it has become very common for people to say they do not find any pleasure in activities in everyday life. This condition is not a feeling only rather it holds a psychological term , called Anhedonia.
Anhedonia is the incapacity to experience joy. It’s a typical sign of depression and other mental health conditions.
Most individuals are aware of what pleasure is to them. They anticipate certain aspects of life will bring them happiness. Suppose, you prefer holding hands, going on adventures, enjoy putting on makeup or taking in the calming or roaring sound of the ocean. But your friend is unable to experience any of the joy. The things where she used to find happiness no longer bring the feeling of joy now.
Anhedonia comes in two primary forms:
- Social Anhedonia: Spending good time with others is not something you want to do.
- Physical Anhedonia: You find physical interactions and feelings unpleasant. A hug does not nurture you; it leaves you feeling empty. It will feel like your favorite dishes have a dull flavor.
Relationships, particularly those with friends and family, become difficult for someone with anhedonia. It’s challenging to be motivated to interact with others when the incentive of enjoyment fades away. You could decline invitations and avoid social gatherings like parties, concerts, and even one-on-one interactions because you no longer see the point in participating. Imagine not being able to tell someone you love them or that you had a wonderful time spending the day with them. Relationships also thrive on positive feedback, and they can wither without it. However, if you suffer from anhedonia, you cannot since you lack those emotions. Meanwhile, a romantic relationship may suffer from a loss of desire. As anhedonia may affect the intimate relationship due to the lack of feelings of pleasure , if one person in a relationship suffers from anhedonia , there should be open communication between the partners.
It’s also important to note that not all scientists concur that anhedonia is always a binary problem. You might not experience any joy at all or you might discover that your happy feelings have diminished. In other words, you can still enjoy eating chocolate ice cream or listening to jazz; you just don’t enjoy them as much as you used to for reasons that you cannot explain.
What Leads to It
- Mental conditions: Although anhedonia and depression are closely related, anhedonia itself is not a sign of depression or sadness. Other mental conditions like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder might also be affected by it. Additionally, it can manifest patients with conditions including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and addiction problems, as well as conditions that seem unconnected to each other.
- Brain activity: Anhedonia may be related to variations in brain activity, according to scientists. A “feel-good” mood molecule called dopamine may not be produced or utilized properly in your brain. The prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain, may have dopamine neurons that are hyperactive in individuals with anhedonia, according to some early research (on rats). This obstructs some of the channels that dictatedictates how we search for rewards and experience them.
How It’s Treated
Treating anhedonia can be difficult as there are no well-established treatment methods to follow to cure the patient. Initial step of understanding anhedonia is looking out for the potential causes that lead to developingdevelop it and later on addressing the problem in the specific manners and methods which can lead to improvement. A combination of therapy and psychoactive drugs is usually the most effective treatment for both anhedonia and depression. Medications that alter the way the brain processes rewards are especially helpful with anhedonia.
Some people also experience an improvement with lifestyle changes. For example, meditation, dietary changes, and better time management may help some people to experience greater satisfaction in their life. Enhancing the capacity to envision future events is one potential treatment for anhedonia. Effortful future planning that incorporates precise and vivid mental imagery can help simulate and “pre-experience” events in a way that is realistic. This results in anticipatory feelings that encourages to engage in satisfying, fulfilling behaviors that support good mental health.
An article by Dina Fine Marn in Scientific American says- “ The core idea of prompting patients to take external actions is what psychologists call “activation”—it is a key component of all behavioral activation interventions. The anhedonia-specific trial adds two new pieces that are not considered standard, Smoski says. “One is what we are calling dabbling—each week trying one new thing that is a short-term commitment, just to try it. The other is practice in savoring—noticing what you like about an activity using your five senses or noticing a sense of pride or enjoyment in an accomplishment.” ”
When it comes to mental health illnesses like depression, it is frequently the case for them. Those who are recommended antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs), it has been seen that the course of taking them, people with anhedonia may get better along with other symptoms of depression. Also, the negative results can be seen too where these drugs cause dull feelings and exacerbate the issue.
For those with anhedonia who do not improve with medications like SSRIs and talk therapy, researchers are developing novel therapies. Ketamine, a substance best recognized for being a party drug with antidepressant properties, is one that exhibits potential. One study revealed that bipolar depression sufferers with anhedonia saw alleviation from this symptom within 40 minutes of receiving a ketamine injection.
Last but not least, effective treatment of anhedonia will require more studies and research to develop and make diagnosis more effective.
Shuhrat Jahan Bhuiyan
Associate Coordinator, Research & Publication