One of the main factors of depression and mental disorders like schizophrenia is that the sufferer has a decreased ability in finding pleasure from anything, whether that be physical activity, social situations or general hobbies.
When I go through depressive episodes, I can never exactly pinpoint what it may be, or whether there was a particular name for this feeling, until my friend mentioned the term anhedonia.
Anhedonia, which is Greek for ‘without pleasure’, refers to this lack of feeling some form of enjoyment in everyday life.
It was recognized during the 19th century by French psychologist Thèodule-Armand Ribot, but was mainly overlooked by more obvious signs of depression like low mood, lack of appetite and severe fatigue; however, it is now seen as a principal symptom of multiple mental illnesses.
The state of anhedonia is caused sometimes by drug use, including antidepressants and recreational drugs but can also be stress related or triggered by risk factors. It can also take different forms like social anhedonia or sexual anhedonia, linking in with being socially withdrawn or having a lack of pleasure from sexual interactions.
Although it is a major component in diagnosing depression, having anhedonia may not mean you have a mental disorder and vice versa. Depression can take many forms so the sense of anhedonia may be absent. Moreover, when someone is suffering from depression, there can be slight uplifting moments and certain interest may still exist whereas anhedonia withdraws any kind of interest or positive emotion and when someone manages to overcomes depression, anhedonia can still remain with simple actions like going for a walk or taking part in an activity seeming utterly meaningless, everything just seems pointless.
So why isn’t this mentioned more in discussions about mental health? Given that anhedonia is a common sign in mental illnesses, surely we should focus on it, right? It could be because anhedonia is so tied in with emotional disorders that it is somewhat neglected; however, we need to be more aware of it as someone may have anhedonia but not even realize they have a mental health problem.
It is also a terrible state of mind to be in. Imagine not being able to feel any positive emotion or thinking that there’s no point in doing anything. It numbs the mind and removes all sense of purpose to everyday life. Why should we neglect this feeling?
Let’s not ignore anhedonia anymore. Let’s raise awareness and make it more of a forefront in mental health discussions.