As your birthday approaches, you might notice a lack of the usual excitement you used to feel. Perhaps there’s a TV show you once enjoyed, but now you need help to muster any interest in it. It’s as if your emotions have faded, and you no longer experience the joy that once came easily. If you feel all these things, even if you might not know it now, you are one of the few people with anhedonia. Lucky for you, this article will explore all you need to know about anhedonia. We will also throw in a segment where we will explore all about anhedonia meaning. So keep reading!
What is Anhedonia?
Anhedonia refers to the absence of the feeling of pleasure, but this simple definition is related to the word’s Greek etymology. ‘An’, from the anhedonia, means ‘without’ in English. In the same way, ‘hedone,’ from anhedonia, means ‘pleasure’ in English. However, the anhedonia definition extends beyond this simple meaning. Clinically, it refers to individuals who have either entirely lost the ability to experience pleasure or satisfaction from activities they once enjoyed or those who have lost only the positive emotions associated with those activities. Anhedonia cruises people to lose their jobs because they no longer feel any interest in it. They can also experience the breakdown of previously healthy relationships because they no longer want to get intimate with their partners. There are two types of anhedonia: social and physical.
Social anhedonia is a condition characterised by a person’s dislike or avoidance of social interactions. People with this condition often show a lack of interest in spending time with others, and they may even actively avoid social activities. They may see social situations as overwhelming or stressful or simply derive no pleasure from engaging with others. Some people with social anhedonia may also experience anxiety or depression when confronted with the prospect of socialising. In severe cases, they may isolate themselves, rarely leaving their house or engaging in conversations. But note that this didn’t always use to be so. The person with this anhedonia used to love socialising. It just happened, and they won’t be able to figure out why.
Social Anhedonia Meaning
Aside from the aforementioned definition, social anhedonia also refers to a lack of interest in family relationships/gatherings, romantic outings/activities, or even friendship vacations. Some of the symptoms of this sort of anhedonia are as follows:
- You used to be a social person; now, you no longer have the desire to even step out of your house
- You feel like your emotions are numb or dead — you don’t feel anything again.
- You feel disconnected from the world around you.
- You no longer have or are slowly withdrawing from all social relationships (friendships, family, work, or even romantic relationships).
- You can’t seem to pinpoint why you are like this. To you, it just happened.
This is the second type of anhedonia, and it is more drawn to physical activities than social ones. Things like sex, eating, hugs, and even clothes seem insignificant. It is neither sad nor joyful. It’s also not dull. It’s just numb – there’s no emotion to these things. In addition, the sentiments arrived unexpectedly. You may not understand why or how you feel this way; you simply do. Some of the symptoms are as follows:
- Beautiful music (or music you used to love) gives you no feeling. The same goes for food you used to like, movies you watched, or even a game you used to play.
- You can’t seem to taste, smell, hear, or feel anything different. It all just feels numb.
- You are very uninterested in sensual and sexual activities (even down to hugs).
- You might feel uncomfortable if you have to do physical things.
Besides the symptoms mentioned above, there are some other signs that could further describe how Anhedonia looks and feels to a person and to the people around such a person. Below are those Anhedonia symptoms:
- You no longer have hobbies. You might need help remembering what your hobbies were and why you used to love them.
- People start to tell you things like, “But you used to love these… what happened?”
- You prefer to be alone when you usually don’t. You no longer want to see friends, family members, or even romantic partners.
- Your romantic relationship looks like you no longer feel anything for your partner (like you have fallen out of love).
- Intimacy makes you feel stressed, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed.
- Everything feels numb. Feelings, life, activities, people, everything! Like the essence and pleasures of life have become a distant concept to you.
But how can a person feel this way? What causes Anhedonia?
Anhedonia is closely linked to many mental and physical health challenges. It is said that these conditions impact how the body and the brain react to the environment and how it interprets how we seek and perceive pleasure. There are six of these Anhedonia causes. They include the following:
This is the most closely-related mental condition that could cause Anhedonia. Also referred to as major depressive disorder, it happens when a person is depressed about life and self such that things no longer bring pleasure to the person again.
One of the symptoms of schizophrenia is anhedonia. Aside from hallucinations, the individual may lose interest in eating or showering.
People with bipolar disorder can be extra active or dull (like those with depression). When they are in their depressive state, they may face moments of anhedonia where they lose interest in things they used to like when they were hyper mania.
Substance abuse issues
This is only targeted towards the substance you usually abuse. For instance, if you take too much caffeine, it might reach a point where no matter how much caffeine you take, you are no longer affected by it (almost like you feel numb from its effect). The same goes for alcohol or drugs.
Past traumatic events can cause a person to change behaviour, leading to anhedonia. The person, who might have been social, might then transition to someone who has lost interest in those things.
Changes in the brain
Though this is yet to be grounded, many researchers believe that neurological changes in the brain and its activities could cause a person to develop anhedonia. To top it all, the changes have been linked strongly to the brain’s dopamine amount. Dopamine is the ‘feel good’ hormone in our brain that helps us experience pleasure or happiness from doing something. Therefore, the research suggests that if the hormone is tampered with (either through genetics or mutation), it can affect how the person might react.
Although some antidepressant drugs may be provided to persons suffering from anhedonia, this is not usually recommended. Many people experience the condition differently, and as you can see from the causes, the underlying causes vary as well. While antidepressants may help persons with depression, people with trauma or substance abuse disorders require different types of treatment. That is why it is advised to avoid self-prescribed drugs unless doctors have examined them. However, below are four things you can adopt in treating anhedonia.
Take care of yourself.
Though you might not feel like doing anything and nothing, in particular, is of interest to you, you might start to feel better when you switch the attention from your surroundings to yourself. Take time to meditate, exercise, sleep well, eat healthy, and travel more. Though it might seem useless initially, keep at it, you might soon start to feel something.
Give yourself a goal.
When you fix a goal for yourself and try to achieve it, it triggers some emotion within you (whether you meet the goal or not). It could be to finish housework, to start a course and finish it, or even to run three laps around your home.
Try something new.
If the things you used to love are not numb, try something new — something you haven’t tried before. Try mountain climbing, jumping off a helicopter, learning to swim (or dive), surfing, or camping. These new activities might bring you a new sense of pleasure that you haven’t felt before.
Surround yourself with loved ones.
Seeing friends and family members, especially if they continually remind you of things you no longer want to do, might be exhausting. However, if you avoid them and retreat inside your shell, things will worsen. Instead, simply express your feelings to them as best as you can. Tell them you’re feeling numb and prefer some space for a time. You still have your privacy, but you haven’t driven them away. They will be present whenever you require the people you care about to be present.
Consider seeking assistance from a professional. Rather than attempting to manage things on your own, a professional mental health provider could refer you to online or in-person therapy sessions with counsellors to assist you in determining the underlying reason and the best potential therapies for you. Remember that the symptoms will not go away overnight, so persevere. You’d gradually begin to feel more like yourself — fulfilled.