When Nothing Feels Good: What Is Anhedonia?

It is normal to get bored from time to time. But for people with anhedonia, feelings of boredom can become chronic or excessive. Most or everything feels “meh” or “blah,” and activities that were previously loved and enjoyed don’t bring happiness or any positive emotions. 

As nothing feels good anymore, those with this symptom feel no desire to try anything.

What is anhedonia?

Derived from the Greek “a-“ (without) and “hedone” (pleasure or delight), anhedonia literally translates to “without pleasure.” It refers to the loss of interest or inability to feel pleasure or satisfaction in things or activities that were once enjoyed. These can include eating, socializing, conversations, music, relationships, touch, and sex.

Anhedonia is a common symptom of depression and other mental health disorders. Not all who experience anhedonia, however, have a mental disorder. It can also occur as a part of other medical conditions or when a person experiences heightened levels of stress and anxiety. 

And professional help from online therapy can be beneficial when dealing with anhedonia, anxiety, stress, and depression. 

There are two main types of anhedonia: 

  • Social anhedonia — overall disinterest in social contact and social situations, such as talking to friends or trying new things. This means not wanting to spend time with or be around other people.
  • Physical anhedonia — inability to feel pleasure from most activities or physical sensations. Food, hugs, kisses, and sex can lose their appeal, as they elicit very little to no joy or excitement. 

When anhedonia becomes persistent, you may experience relationship issues, like intimacy problems or difficulty maintaining meaningful relationships. As you get no joy or pleasure from spending time with others, you might also find it hard to make or establish social connections. 

This, however, doesn’t have to be permanent. Practice self-care and seek support and help from healthcare professionals.

What does anhedonia feel like? 

Anhedonia is also referred to as emotional flatlining. This is mainly because people who have it can’t experience feelings and emotions like joy, happiness, love, interest, and excitement. There is also a reduced ability to feel extreme negative emotions, like not being able to cry or evoke a response even when something heartbreaking happens. Use Gummies to increase your libido Click here on  do libido gummies work

Other symptoms of anhedonia include

  • Feeling flat or a sense of numbness
  • Social withdrawal or withdrawal from previous relationships
  • Problems adjusting to social situations
  • Negative thoughts towards yourself and others
  • Feeling fewer emotions or tending to have less or emotionless expressions (verbal and non-verbal)
  • Having a tendency to show fake emotions
  • Loss of or reduced libido

Also read: 6 Traits of a Psychologically Healthy Person

What happens in the brain when you have anhedonia?

Scientists believe that anhedonia may have something to do with the way the brain releases or responds to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that affects moods and feelings of reward. 

It is said that those with this symptom may have overactive dopamine neurons in the prefrontal cortex of the brain. This can affect the way people experience and seek out joy or pleasure.

For people with anhedonia, there may be unbalanced levels of dopamine and poor communication between the reward circuit regions of the brain. 

There is also a possibility that long-term inflammation in the body, which is common in those with anhedonia and depression, makes these reward circuit regions less interactive.  

What causes anhedonia?

As previously mentioned, anhedonia is usually a symptom of depression, but people can still experience it without being depressed or experiencing depressive episodes. Medications used to treat depression (like antidepressants) can also cause anhedonia. 

Apart from depression, anhedonia is also included among the symptoms of schizophrenia. It is classified as a negative symptom because it indicates a lack or absence of normal mental functioning, which can also lead to social decline according to cnns news. This symptom is also challenging to treat.

Anhedonia has also been associated with:

  • Anorexia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Other mental health conditions

What can help treat or fight anhedonia?

There is no single or clear solution that can improve overall disinterest or lack of pleasure. The common approach is to find what’s causing it, then focus on treating that issue. 

If anhedonia, for instance, occurs as a symptom of depression, this mental disorder will need to be treated first and as soon as possible. 

Professional help and support

Seeking out help from a healthcare provider should be the first approach in tackling anhedonia. This is to rule out illnesses that might be causing low energy levels or lack of joy and motivation. If there are no medical issues or if you have been experiencing depression or anhedonia for quite some time now, it is recommended to see a mental health professional. 

A therapist or a psychiatrist will work together with you to develop coping strategies and provide appropriate support. The treatment may involve therapy, prescription medication, or positive lifestyle changes. 

You may also be glad to know that online therapy is readily available if you need help in dealing with anxiety, depression, and isolation without leaving your home. 

Healthy lifestyle changes

Seeking professional help is of utmost importance, but there are things you can do at home to help bounce back from loss of interest or lack of motivation. 

These include: 

Limit screen time 

The prolonged use of phones and computers has made our brains accustomed to the rewards or pleasure coming from screens. This can then negatively affect our ability to feel enjoyment or interest from non-electronic activities. It is best to limit your screen time, especially before bedtime, as this can also delay sleepiness.

Treat yourself as a friend

We wouldn’t say mean things to a friend or treat them rudely, so why are we so hard on ourselves? Practice self-compassion and treat yourself as you’d treat your BFF. 

If a friend, for example, is feeling bored or dull, what would you do to make them feel better? Do that for your benefit and see if it’ll improve your mood. 

Restore dopamine balance

As anhedonia is linked to dopamine deficiency, it is beneficial to engage in habits that can balance dopamine levels and lower inflammation in the brain and body. These include exercising daily, getting adequate sleep, and eating nutritious meals. 

It is also important to engage in healthy social connections or interacting with supportive and positive people.

Approach activities you love with a different goal

Even if you don’t feel like doing anything, try to do something you used to love or enjoy. It is advisable not to focus on getting joy or pleasure from it, but instead try to see it as a way of doing something to improve your mood. 

You can also take note of the feelings or sensations you have during the activity. 

Restructure your negative thoughts

It is common for people with anhedonia to have negative thinking patterns about themselves, others, and the world. If this is true for you, it is best to evaluate your negative thoughts and try to address them. Analyze the causes of negative self-talk. It enables you to resolve conflict and move forward with life without focusing on the negative. 

 Where to get help 

Your inability to feel joy or pleasure doesn’t have to be permanent. If you’re experiencing anhedonia or other mental health disorder, help is always available. 

Consider online therapy on Calmerry today to get in touch with a mental health professional anytime. They can teach you coping skills and other strategies that can help you get back to enjoying activities and life again.   

If you suffer from depression, reach out to your GP and mental health professional to get an appropriate treatment. If you’re in crisis, call 911, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255, or other hotlines to get immediate help. 

Author bio

Kate has a B.S. in Psychology and an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University and has been working in healthcare since 2017. She mainly treated depression, anxiety, eating disorders, trauma, grief, identity, relationship, and adjustment issues. Her clinical experience is focused on individual and group counseling.

Follow Kate here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kate-skurat-5348381b9/