Psychology

Anhedonia Is The Inability To Feel Pleasure

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What if you no longer enjoyed being outdoors, listening to music, hanging out with friends, or even eating pizza? If you've ever seen a TV commercial for depression, you're probably familiar with this issue: the inability to take pleasure in activities you once found enjoyable, a condition known as anhedonia.

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When You Feel Nothing At All

The term anhedonia directly translates to "without pleasure" in Greek and is often referred to as "emotional flatlining." Common examples of this condition include feeling no love or connection while holding your baby, being completely unmoved by your favorite song, having no desire for or enjoyment of sex, faking emotions for other people, and feeling indifferent during big moments like a big sports win or your own marriage. While anhedonia is listed as a core feature of major depressive disorder, it's also a negative symptom of other disorders, such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease. Scientists aren't quite sure how or why anhedonia happens in the brain, but recent studies have shed some light on a few potential explanations.

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What's Going On?

According to a 2008 article in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, anhedonia is associated with a decrease of activity in the brain's reward center (specifically, the ventral striatum) and increased activity in the region that controls inhibition of emotional responses (the front region of the prefrontal cortex). In both areas, dopamine—the "feel-good" neurotransmitter—plays a big role. A 2016 study pointed to where exactly anhedonia might be doing its damage when it found that stimulating the brain's inhibition center caused a decrease in activity—and dopamine—in the reward center. Discovering the role dopamine plays in anhedonia will hopefully lead to more effective prevention and treatment methods for disorders ranging from depression to drug abuse.

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