LivingWhat is anhedonia?

What is anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability to feel or taste that during pleasurable activities and occurs as part of a number of conditions.

Most people, at some point in their life, will lose interest in the things that used to give them great delight. Anhedonia, however, pushes this loss to the limit: it becomes impossible to enjoy the things that once caused happiness, such as music, sex, food, or good conversation.

In addition to major depressive disorder, it can occur as part of other conditions, such as schizophrenia, psychosis, and Parkinson’s disease, as well as anorexia nervosa and substance use disorders.

Because treating depression is such a challenge, any additional ideas are welcome. There is scientific evidence to suggest that the presence of anhedonia increases the risk of committing suicide, so if the link, recognition and treatment of anhedonia is proven, it could save lives.

How does a person with anhedonia feel? What’s going on in your brain?

As with the investigation of any emotional response, it is not a simple thing. Brain circuits are dense, intricate, and incredibly active. Anhedonia is not simply a reduced appreciation of the taste of chocolate (for example), but the underlying reward mechanisms are impaired.

This can involve alterations in the levels of interest, motivation, anticipation, expectation and prediction of effort, each more complex. And all of them are processed by different but overlapping neural circuits.

For people with anhedonia,
the brain’s reward process is deranged. Finding which part of this process has become unattached is difficult work.

To understand this extreme, an example. If we try a new type of cake and like it, we will probably want to eat it again. However, if they tell us that each piece of cake costs 1,000 euros, we may give up. If the cake was free, we would eat it again; We would not give up this pleasure.

All this indicates that the desire, motivation and pleasure we get from things are fluid, malleable. Not so in people with anhedonia.

Treatment of anhedonia

Currently, there is no specific treatment for anhedonia. It is usually treated in conjunction with the condition of which it is a part,
as in the case of depression.

There is a growing body of evidence that standard treatments for depression do not work for anhedonia and, worse, they can aggravate the problem by causing emotional dullness, sexual anhedonia and anorgasmia, or the inability to orgasm.

This negative interaction could be because serotonin inhibits the release of dopamine in certain regions of the brain, which can interfere with reward, motivation, and the pleasure circuit.

There is still a long way to go before the many filaments of anhedonia are fully understood. However, our knowledge is growing step by step, slowly and, over time, there is hope for a solution to this highly intrusive and debilitating disease.

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