Anhedonia, a Disorder That Makes It Impossible to Feel Pleasure


Anhedonia is the inability to feel pleasure. People who experience anhedonia have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy and have a decreased ability to feel pleasure.

It’s a core symptom of major depressive disorder, but it can also be a symptom of other mental health disorders. Some people who experience anhedonia don’t have a mental disorder.

What Are the Types of Anhedonia?

The two main types of anhedonia are social and physical anhedonia.

1. Social Anhedonia: Social anhedonia is a disinterest in social contact and a lack of pleasure in social situations.

2. Physical Anhedonia: Physical anhedonia is an inability to feel tactile pleasures such as eating, touching, or sex.

What Are the Symptoms of Anhedonia?

Physical Anhedonia Symptoms

The Inability to derive pleasure from physical sensations, food may not taste as good as it once did; it may taste bland, physical touch(such as hugging or hand holding, may no longer bring comfort), sex may not feel pleasurable ( you may lose interest in it).

Social Anhedonia Symptoms

Lack of interest in forming new relationships, Withdrawal from previous relationships, not wanting to socialize, increased stress about socializing, Not wanting to be intimate — emotionally or sexually, Inability to feel empathy or compassion toward yourself or others.

What Are the Causes of Anhedonia?

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anhedonia as “the inability to enjoy experiences or activities that normally would be pleasurable.”

The APA explains that anhedonia is usually connected to a major depressive episode, but is also frequently tied to other mental health disorders like schizophrenia.

Anhedonia is a core symptom of depression, but not everyone who’s depressed experiences anhedonia. Prescription medication, especially medications like antidepressants and anti psychotics used to treat depression, can cause anhedonia.

Schizotypy is a psychology theory that certain personality traits may be a risk factor for developing psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. Social anhedonia is a risk factor for schizophrenia. Anhedonia may also occur due to recreational drug use or having a large amount of stress or anxiety.

Anhedonia is also often seen among people who have substance abuse issues, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, or who have experienced trauma. In addition, it has been linked to chronic health conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.

What Are the Risk Factors for Anhedonia?

If you have a family history of major depression or schizophrenia, you have an increased risk of anhedonia. Other risk factors include: a recent traumatic or stressful event, a history of abuse or neglect, an illness that impacts your quality of life, a major illness, an eating disorder.

How Is Anhedonia Diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your symptoms and your general mood. Telling your doctor all of your symptoms will help them to see the full picture and make a diagnosis.

Your doctor may perform a physical exam to determine if you have any physical problems.

Additionally, your doctor may draw blood to test for a vitamin deficiency or thyroid problem, which may be contributing to your mood disorder.

How Is Anhedonia Treated?

Anhedonia can be challenging to treat. You’ll need treatment for the mental disorder that’s causing the symptom, such as depression.

As the first step in your treatment, you should seek the help of a medical professional. If they don’t find any medical issues, your primary care provider may recommend you see a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other mental health professional.

Your treatment may include medications such as antidepressants. You should take the medication as prescribed and let your doctor know if you have any side effects. They may need to adjust your dosage or medication. These medications affect people in different ways.

A medication that works for you may not work for someone else with the same symptoms.

Another type of treatment that may be used in some cases is electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is one of the most effective treatments for depression. Some expert trusted sources feel that it should be used sooner rather than later especially with people who have uncomplicated depression.

During this treatment, a doctor places electrodes on the head and applies an electric current while the person undergoing the procedure is under general anesthesia. This induces a small brain seizure.

Transcarnial magnetic stimulation or (TMS) uses a magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells. It uses a smaller electric current than ECT and doesn’t require general anesthesia. TMS can treat major depression in people who have depression that isn’t responding to medication.

As with ECT and TMS, VNS can treat depression in people who have depression that hasn’t responded to other treatments.

A final treatment option is vagus nerve stimulation (VNS). Your doctor will implant a medical device similar to a pacemaker in your chest. The wires of this device create regular electrical impulses that stimulate your brain.

Is There a Cure or Treatment for Anhedonia?

Most cases of anhedonia can be treated with “talk therapy.” It’s important that you find a therapist who you feel comfortable, so that you can honestly share the things you are struggling with.

It can be difficult to share your experience of anhedonia, so you want to find a therapist who is compassionate and makes you feel safe.

You have many options when it comes to therapy. You can find and meet with an in-person therapist near you, or try an online therapist who will communicate via text messaging or video — anytime, anywhere.

If you are feeling uncomfortable discussing your anhedonia symptoms, online therapy might be a great place to start, because you can share your feelings in the privacy of your own home or anywhere you can connect to the internet.

Sometimes anhedonia is treated with a psycho pharmaceutical, such as an SSRI used to treat depression. These treatments have a high rate of success.

Common shortcomings with treatment via SSRIs include patients reporting side-effects such as numbing of feelings, which increases or prolongs the experience of anhedonia. You can work with your doctor or psychiatrist, however, to figure out the medication type and dosage that works best for you.

You Can Overcome Anhedonia and Its Effects

One of the challenges of anhedonia is that you may not at first understand that what you are experiencing is common and treatable.

You may imagine there is something defective about you, or that you did something wrong to cause the onset of these symptoms. You may believe that you will never feel normal again, or that you don’t deserve to; self-blame and shame is common among those experiencing anhedonia.

You should know that you absolutely did nothing wrong. Anhedonia is something experienced by many people who have a mental health or medical condition it is not your fault, and you didn’t bring this upon yourself.

Effective treatments are out there, effective, and available, and you are going to be okay. Just think of all the pleasures and joys that await you once you begin to feel like yourself again.


Written by – Mahak Galhotra

Edited by – Adrija Saha

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