When you boil life down to its very essence, you’ll find what’s left is a series of human emotions. All of the experiences in our life come with emotion, whether it’s joy, sadness, anger, or anxiety. That’s why so many people choose to do everything they can to avoid situations that bring pain and only focus on those experiences that offer them pleasure.
How different would life be if we couldn’t feel the pleasure that human experiences offer us. Some people, however, go through life not being able to feel pleasure or joy. These people suffer from what’s called anhedonia.
What is Social Anhedonia?
Anhedonia is a term used to describe a condition where someone is unable to enjoy the good or pleasurable things in life. Physical anhedonia describes when someone cannot experience pleasure from physical sensations such as the taste of food or the loving caress of a partner.
Social anhedonia describes someone who cannot experience the joy of human companionship.
Of the two disorders, social anhedonia is far more common. Though having said that, it’s important to point out that social anhedonia is not the same as introversion, shyness, or social anxiety. Instead, social anhedonia describes a condition where the person’s ability to feel pleasure and enjoyment from social interactions is diminished or totally missing.
Some of the most common symptoms of social anhedonia are:
- Social withdrawal
- Lack of relationships
- Reduced emotional responses
- Poor social adjustment
- Decreased overall positivity
- Monotone or flat vocal expression
Causes and Treatment Options
At the root of anhedonia is often depression, though not everyone who experiences social anhedonia is depressed. Unfortunately, many prescription medications for depression can actually cause anhedonia.
Other risk factors for developing anhedonia include:
- A family history of schizophrenia or depression
- A traumatic or stressful event
- A history of neglect or abuse
- A chronic illness that impacts your quality of life
- A major and sudden illness
- Disordered eating
If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from social anhedonia, it’s important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider to determine if your symptoms are the result of some type of vitamin deficiency or a thyroid disorder.
If everything checks out physically, then it’s important to begin working with a mental health therapist. They can develop a customized treatment plan that will focus on what is called “behavioral activation interventions.” I have found in my own practice that by prompting clients to take external actions and focus on savoring or noticing positive experiences, healing can occur, and it can become more commonplace to feel joy from social interactions. In addition, if you are suffering from depression and your social anhedonia is a result, that can be addressed through therapy as well.
If you or a loved one are not enjoying life to the fullest and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me.