What is Anhedonia? Causes, symptoms and treatment

What is Anhedonia? Causes, symptoms and treatment

Anhedonia is defined as the inability to feel and experience pleasure, as well as the loss of interest in things.

People who experience anhedonia They lose all interest in carrying out activities they used to enjoy and have a lower capacity to feel pleasure. They have a deep feeling of apathy and reluctant It is a central symptom of major depressive disorder, but it can also be a symptom of other mental health disorders. There are people who experience anhedonia without the need for any mental disorder.


  • 1 Types of Anhedonia
  • 2 Main symptoms of anhedonia
  • 3 Causes of anhedonia
  • 4 Risk factors of anhedonia
  • 5 Treatment of anhedonia

Types of Anhedonia

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

Social anhedonia It is a lack of interest in social contact and lack of pleasure in social situations. The physical anhedonia It is the inability to feel tactile pleasures such as eating, touching, or sex.

Main symptoms of anhedonia

Everyone has ever experienced sadness, it is normal. Sadness may appear after the loss of something important, as happens after a breakup, or after losing a job, a friend or a pet. It is these moments that it is normal to feel sad, not wanting to do anything, want to sleep all day or lose your appetite. We've all been through something like that. But these feelings usually diminish over time, and the life returns to normal after a period of pain. Depression, on the other hand, is something totally different.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and anhedonia is part of this disease.. But that to be able to better understand the characteristics of anhedonia, we offer you the following list of characteristic symptoms:

  • Loss of interest for all or almost all day-to-day activities
  • Loss or significant weight gain
  • Change in sleep patterns: insomnia or excess sleep
  • Physical sensations restlessness, agitation or a feeling of "slowing down"
  • Fatigue or loss of energy almost daily
  • Feelings of worthlessness or unfounded guilt
  • Inability to concentrate, difficulty thinking and making decisions
  • Repeated thoughts of death or suicide
  • Social withdrawal and difficulties in adapting to different social situations
  • Negative feelings towards oneself and others
  • Reduction of emotional expression, including having fewer verbal and nonverbal expressions
  • Tendency to show false emotions, pretending to show happiness when you don't feel
  • Loss of libido or lack of interest in physical intimacy
  • Persistent physical problems or psychosomatic disorders

As we can imagine, these symptoms cause a serious disturbance in day-to-day functioning and often bring problems at work and family life. We must bear in mind that when someone is diagnosed with depression, they are suffering from a disease as serious as any physical illness.

Causes of anhedonia

Like we have already said, Anhedonia is a central symptom of depression, although not everyone who is depressed experiences anhedonia. We should also know that medications such as antidepressants and antipsychotics used to treat depression can cause anhedonia.

Schizotypy is another psychological disorder in which certain personality traits can develop typical symptoms of social anhedonia, and the same goes for schizophrenia.

Anhedonia can also appear as a result of drug use or suffering from a lot of stress or vital anxiety.

Risk factors of anhedonia

Family history of major depression or schizophrenia is a risk factor for anhedonia. Other risk factors are:

  • A recent traumatic or stressful event
  • A history of physical or emotional abuse or neglect
  • A disease that affects the quality of life
  • An eating disorder

It has been verified that women have a higher risk of suffering anhedonia.

Anhedonia treatment

Anhedonia can be difficult to treat. In general, the mental disorder that is causing the symptoms must be treated first. For this reason the treatment will depend on the cause of the anhedonia, as it will not be the same if it is an isolated and timely event, than if it is a symptom of schizophrenia or depression.

Thus, possible treatments vary. Psychological therapy is essential depending on the process. Some people have seen a great improvement after taking medications that increase dopamine levels. Another alternative is practice yoga and meditation, when combined with exercise. Others have helped themselves with herbs and supplements such as Rhodiola rosea and St. John's wort. A radical change in diet has also helped many; giving up junk food, reducing the consumption of caffeine and sugar, for example. Taking more fruits and vegetables, as well as fresh fish can also help.

It is important look for things that can exert a positive stimulation in our lives, such as going to the movies, reading something entertaining, going out with friends for outdoor walks, doing some crafts, etc. Well, all these little things that are so lazy to do when we are apathetic, in the long run it has a rebound effect and will encourage us to move forward with our lives in a more energetic and healthy way.