Dr. Jack J Wu, a psychiatrist and neurologist in California, has explicated the five signs of depression that you may recognize in yourself or a loved one. One of the most significant of these is anhedonia, or the inability to take pleasure in activities you once enjoyed. Anhedonia can have a negative impact on different aspects of your life, perhaps most specifically your relationships with others.
What Causes Anhedonia?
Research is ongoing, but anhedonia may be connected to a mood chemical called dopamine and changes to the brain that affect how it responds to the chemical. Anhedonia occurs frequently with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. It can also occur in the presence of health conditions such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Use of methamphetamine and other recreational drugs can also contribute to anhedonia. Sometimes, however, anhedonia just shows up on its own with no other discernible physical or mental condition to account for its presence.
What Are the Two Different Types of Anhedonia?
Currently, scientists believe that anhedonia may occur along a continuum. In some cases, your enjoyment of pleasurable activities may be suppressed or dulled but still present, while in others, it may be entirely lacking. In either case, anhedonia can follow one of two different patterns: physical anhedonia and social anhedonia.
Physical anhedonia is marked by a lack of enjoyment in the pleasures of your senses. The smell of your favorite perfume, the taste of your favorite food, your favorite piece of music, a hug from a friend, all leave you feeling cold and empty. You may also lose enjoyment in sex. Social anhedonia is a reluctance to spend time with other people, even close friends or family members. Of course, it is normal to want to spend time alone every once in a while, but social anhedonia is marked by persistent isolation and social withdrawal.
What Puts You At Risk for Anhedonia?
While both men and women can experience anhedonia, females are at a slightly higher risk. Other risk factors include the following:
- Major or chronic illness, especially one that affects quality of life
- Family history of mental illness, especially schizophrenia or depression
- Historical neglect or abuse
- Recent stressful event or trauma
What Can You Do About It?
The first step in treating anhedonia is to talk to a professional, whether this be your family doctor, a counselor, a psychiatrist, etc. If your primary care physician is unable to treat you, he or she may refer you to a specialist who can. Treatment may involve talk therapy or antidepressant medication.