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Important Information About Anhedonia

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Please note that I am not a doctor but I am very knowledgeable about this topic. This topic is not aimed to provide a diagnostic or a treatment plan. The purpose of it is to spread more informations about anhedonia. For a proper diagnostic and treatment you need a good psychiatrist. A lot of information in this subforum can be useful for treatment, however.

What exactly is anhedonia?

Anhedonia by definition, is the inability to enjoy normally pleasurable activities. Normal human activities such as eating, drinking, socializing, sex, listening to music or any other recreational activity can become dull and pleasureless to the person who suffers from anhedonia. Such person may stop entirely to seek out those experiences or they may irresponsably engage in the few of them that still give them a little bit of pleasure and develop addictions(ex: food, sex,drugs, etc...) People that suffers from anhedonia also often suffer from emotional numbness where they no longer feel affected by anything, whether it is positive or negative.

Is anhedonia the same as depression?

Psychiatrists view anhedonia not as a condition or a state of mind but as a symptom of depression. I and many people disagree with that. Most people with depression will have some level of anhedonia but in most cases they will still keep the ability to have some pleasure. They will often experience disturbing negative emotions, anxiety, insomnia, tiredness, low self esteem. They will often get less pleasure out of life as a result of negative thoughts and emotions, but in most cases they can still enjoy positive experiences when it happens.

For people who suffer from anhedonia and emotional numbness, it is a bit different. These people will often feel numb and indifferent. They will be really tired and lethargic and will find it is really hard to react to anything. Things such as music, food, socializing, sex, and other activities will no longer be appealing where in normal depression these activities can be useful for distraction and overcoming depression.

Anhedonia/numbness is a form of depression but it is unlike normal depression. The problem is that psychiatry makes no distinction and will treat people who suffer from anhedonia the same as people who have 'normal depression'.

What are the symptoms that are often present with anhedonia?

Since anhedonia is usually a different form of depression, symptoms usually are very similar. The following are symptoms that can be associated with anhedonia: tiredness, low motivation, negative thinking, low sex drive, apathy, indifference, emotional numbness, blank mind, racing thoughts, hopelessness, anxiety, helplessness, suicidal ideation and low desire to engage in activities. Some people may develop addictions as a way to cope with anhedonia. You don't have to suffer from all these symptoms to suffer from anhedonia though.

Anhedonia can be present in other disorders such as schizoid personality disorder where the individual is cut off from their own emotions and psyche. It can be seen in other personality disorders too. It is also a big part of the symptoms of negative schizophrenia which is very difficult to treat.

Many people who suffer from depersonalization disorder and PTSD also suffer from anhedonia. They are often disconnected from their emotions as a defense mechanism and have a hard time enjoying normal activities.

Other symptoms not yet mentioned related to these conditions include depersonalization (feeling outside of one's body), derealization (feeling as the world is unreal) and confusion

What are the causes of anhedonia?

Anhedonia is often seen in depression but many people with typical depression retain some ability for pleasure. Anhedonia in atypical depression is often much more severe. Anhedonia is seen in other disorders also such as in the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, PTSD, some personality disorders and bipolar disorder when in the depression phase. Anhedonia can also be caused by medication. Antipsychotics and SSRIs arcommonly induce apathy, anhedonia and lower sex drive. These are general symptoms -- each person can react differently to different drugs and different dosages.

What are the treatments for anhedonia?

Treating anhedonia/numbness is very hard, much harder than regular depression. Psychiatrists will often treat anhedonia the same as depression and they will use their first line of treatment: SSRIs. These usually don't work for many people suffering from anhedonia because SSRIs can reduce emotional responses and decrease sex drive and other sources of pleasure.

I will not venture too much about the treatments of anhedonia here because there are a few threads here that specifically talk about that. Some are pinned also.

It is important that your psychiatrist understand what anhedonia/numbness is and that although it is similar, it is not exactly like normal depression. All psychiatrists know what anhedonia is but many will treat it the same as regular depression or as just a symptom. SSRIs also usually don't work for a person who suffers from anhedonia/numbness. Everyone reacts differently, do take them if they are prescribed to you, but they can make things worse and it's important that your psychiatrist understands the difference between anhedonia and depression when prescribing!

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Sadly, there's probably a simple answer, or cure to anhedonia. Its a terrible way to live. Its a disease. It has to be. Its physiological, which shows itself psychologicaly.

It could take years for the science community to accept this. And more years to prove it. And many more years to hypothesize and find an actual answer.

The cure, is probably out there. Sitting somewhere deep in the internet. Someone who stumbled on some pill, or accidently ingested carpet cleaner, just to realize that, hey, this cured my anhedonia. Only problem is, maybe this person didnt call their illness anhedonia maybe they assumed it was depression, and never knew of emotions. Maybe that person lives in china, and posted about it on myspace back in 2006, about how they miraculously overcame depression(anhedonia) from ingesting elephant dung, which happened to have half digested grape seeds, which for whatever reason seemed to have reversed their anhedonia.

The sad thing is, someone most likely stumbled on the answer and didnt even recognize it.

Edited by NoMore27

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I agree, I have also experienced this when having my depression and anxiety hits me like a truck. Thank you so much for this informative posts. It is really helpful. 

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