Anhedonia: When Nothing Feels Good Anymore
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Feeling less pleasure than usual while doing your favorite activities but not sure why? If so, your mental health struggle might be anhedonia. 

Anhedonia is a reduced interest in activities that you used to enjoy. It’s a core symptom of major depressive disorder (depression) and other mental health conditions. There are two types of anhedonia:

  • Social anhedonia — If you have social anhedonia, then being around people who once brought you joy may feel overwhelming and stressful. These people could be friends, family or colleagues. You may even avoid spending as much time with these people as you used to. Overall, you may feel disinterested in all aspects of your relationships with other people. 
  • Physical anhedonia — Physical anhedonia refers to feeling numb during physical experiences. For example, you may not enjoy eating your favorite food, listening to your favorite songs or smelling your favorite scents.

Why anhedonia occurs and some conditions commonly associated with it

Anhedonia may occur because of a low dopamine activity in your brain. Dopamine is the chemical that is responsible for feelings of pleasure. For example, your brain releases dopamine when you eat a type of food that you’ve been craving.

Anhedonia is commonly associated with these mental health conditions:

  • Depression Depression is a mood disorder that involves feelings of sadness and hopelessness and having low energy to do daily activities (e.g., getting out of bed, brushing your teeth and taking a shower). If you don’t feel motivated to do your daily activities (e.g., brushing your teeth), then you may feel a loss of pleasure when doing something you’d typically enjoy (e.g., eating chocolate ice cream).
  • Schizophrenia Schizophrenia is a thought disorder that involves scattered thought and speech patterns. People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations and feel disconnected from reality. If you feel disconnected from reality as a result of schizophrenia, it may be easier for you to lose interest in your favorite activity.
  • Bipolar disorder Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that involves extreme mood swings. These mood swings can affect your behavior. For example, if you experience a depressive “low,” you may feel sad and have trouble concentrating. This experience may cause a lack of interest in doing your favorite activity.

Mental health care for anhedonia

Mental health care occurs at various levels depending on how much support you need for your condition. The level of care you require is determined by assessments performed by qualified mental health professionals. Two of the levels of care that people with mental health conditions that include anhedonia may benefit from are: 

  • Residential Treatment Residential Treatment involves 24-hour care in a house that is staffed with mental health professionals. These houses are designed to provide a calm, supportive environment for those being treated for mental health conditions and symptoms like anhedonia. Residential Treatment includes an individualized treatment plan, individual sessions with a primary therapist, and sessions with a staff psychiatrist. Your primary therapist can advise you on emotion regulation techniques. These techniques can help you become more aware of when you feel a loss of pleasure and can help you learn how to cope with those feelings.
  • Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) —An Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides intensive day treatment to people in need of more support, and they return home each night. This program is about three to six hours each day. It involves weekly treatment plans, sessions with a primary therapist, sessions with a psychiatrist (as needed), group sessions, and monthly meetings with your whole treatment team. By attending meetings with your treatment team, you can more clearly measure your progress in coping with anhedonia.

Both Residential Treatment and an IOP include a personalized treatment plan created by a licensed clinical therapist. However you experience anhedonia in your daily life, a primary therapist can help you get the treatment that best fits your needs.

Lightfully U can treat anhedonia through a holistic treatment plan

If you’re concerned about the lack of pleasure in things you used to enjoy, and maybe feeling a little overwhelmed, that’s OK — awareness is the first step toward finding out which treatment works best for you. 

At Lightfully, we prioritize you as a whole person, not just one aspect of your life. Lightfully U is a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (vIOP) that reflects this value. The goal of this program is for college students to receive the support and care they need in a safe and welcoming space. A Lightfully U vIOP includes:

  • An initial psychiatric assessment
  • 10 to 15 sessions with a peer group led by a mental health professional per week (peer groups are capped at 10 students, allowing for a more personalized experience)
  • An individual session with an experienced primary therapist every week
  • Experiential activities intended to help you apply the skills you’re learning in your therapy sessions to real-life situations

Change is possible. Interested in learning more about treatment options for college students to address emotional numbness? You can contact us. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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