A world without pleasure is a grey place indeed. Without this emotion, life become monotonous, and there doesn’t seem to be much point in doing anything. Day to day living becomes an endurance race, and there is no motivation to try to improve things. The inability to experience pleasure means that life can feel pointless, and that is not a satisfying form of existence. It is a particularly dangerous way to feel if people are trying to recover from an addiction. If there is no pleasure in recovery there is no point in staying away from alcohol and drugs.
Anhedonia is defined as a loss of capacity to experience pleasure. This inability to enjoy pleasurable things is associated with a number of mental health problems including depression. The word anhedonia comes from ancient Greek and means without delight. The individual who is experiencing this condition will find that their life is emotionally empty.
It is possible to divide anhedonia into different types:
* Motivational anhedonia means that the individual has no desire to engage in enjoyable activities.
* Consummatory anhedonia means that the individual does not get enjoyment from the actual activity that would normally be considered enjoyable.
* Sexual anhedonia refers to a situation where a man ejaculates but receives no sense of pleasure from this. Women can also have a similar problem with receiving pleasure during their orgasm.
The symptoms of anhedonia can include:
* The individual experiences a flat mood all the time. They may describe this by saying that they feel nothing.
* They have little motivation to do things due. This is due to a lack of variation in mood.
* There is no positive reward for doing things.
* The individual may have a loss of sex drive.
* The person no longer gets enjoyment from activities that they once found enjoyable.
There are a number of possible reasons for why people develop anhedonia including:
* One possible for why people develop anhedonia is as a result of social learning. This means that the individual has learnt to associate certain experiences with lack of pleasure – this could mean that the person has learnt to indentify life away from addiction as being without pleasure.
* It is suggested that the [brain of those who are dealing with anhedonia are functioning abnormally. In particular the parts of the brain that deal with mood changes, empathy, and reward signals.
* It may also be that those who are suffering from this condition have difficulty processing happiness. This is due to problems with the brain’s internal reward system.
Anhedonia is a symptom of a number of mental health conditions including:
* It is frequently associated with addiction. It is a common symptom that people experience during withdrawals.
* It is a core symptom of depression
* Post partum depression is where a mother is unable to get pleasure from her newborn baby.
* Bipolar disorder
Anhedonia is a fairly common symptom for people in early recovery. It is most often associated with the withdrawal stage when the individual initially gives up alcohol or drugs, but it can persist for longer. There dangers of anhedonia in recovery include:
* If the individual is unable to experience pleasure in recovery they will not see any point in staying sober. Their sober existence may feel more miserable than their life in addiction.
* In order to be successful in recovery the individual will need to be highly motivated. Those who are dealing with anhedonia will struggle to develop any type of real motivation for anything.
* Those who are attending rehab will be expected to absorb a good deal of knowledge to help them cope in the outside world. If they are dealing with anhedonia they may struggle to absorb any information.
* Even if this person somehow manages to stay sober their life will remain unsatisfying until they overcome anhedonia.
* Pleasure is a vital component of the internal reward system – it helps people grow and learn. If the individual is unable to experience rewards they will fail to make any progress.
* Those individuals who are dealing with post acute withdrawal symptoms may have to deal with anhedonia for a year or longer. It is going to be a real struggle for them to remain sober long enough to recovery from the condition in recovery.
* If the individual relapses as a result of anhedonia they may have lost their only chance at sobriety. The fact that their time in recovery was miserable will dissuade them from making any further attempts.
* Persistent anhedonia in recovery may be a sign that the individual has a dual diagnosis. Unless they get this other mental health problem dealt with the symptom may persist.
If people are dealing with anhedonia in recovery there is likely to be things they can do to improve the situation including:
* Knowledge about anhedonia can be a great help to those who are dealing with this symptom. They will learn that it does not mean that they will feel this way forever, and that there are treatment options.
* Those people who develop persistent anhedonia may be suffering from depression. They may benefit from taking antidepressant medication.
* It is important that those who are struggling with anhedonia seek medical advice. Failure to deal with the problem will be putting their sobriety at risk.
* It is suggested that regular physical activity can help the individual overcome this symptom. The worst thing that the individual can do is isolate and become inactive.
* Practices such as yoga may be of benefit to people who are dealing with this type of problem.
* Just going for walks in nature can be of value to the individual who is dealing with anhedonia.