Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Anhedonia is the inability to feel enjoyment or pleasure. People struggling with anhedonia aren’t motivated to seek out enjoyable activities like seeing friends or going for a walk, and they don’t enjoy them if they do. Anhedonia is a symptom of depressive disorders as well as some other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder and PTSD.

What Is Anhedonia?
StockSnap / Pixabay

While hedonism is the pursuit of pleasure, gratification, and self-indulgence, anhedonia represents its absence—a lack of desire, enjoyment, or even conviction that anything matters.

Enjoyment encompasses both "wanting" and "liking"—anticipatory enjoyment, and present-moment pleasure. Ahedondia suppresses both facets. Not wanting to engage in positive activities prevents people from seeking them out, and not liking them prevents people from enjoying them if they do manage to seek them out. Experiences become muted, muffled, and miserably “meh.”

What are the signs of anhedonia?

Signs of anhedonia may include: 

• Lack of joy and/or emotion

• Lack of energy to socialize 


• Apathy

• Seclusion


What causes anhedonia?

Although it doesn’t always rise to a clinical threshold, anhedonia is generally associated with depression, as well as some other mental health conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance use disorder, Parkinson’s disease, and diabetes. Scientists don’t fully understand what causes anhedonia, but it may be linked to signaling changes in the brain, such as dopamine production.

article continues after advertisement
How to Treat Anhedonia
Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

Anhedonia can be difficult to treat, but it often involves addressing related mental health conditions, such as depression, with a combination of counseling and medication. Therapy may include cognitive behavioral therapy or other forms of talk therapy, and treatments may include medications, brain stimulation therapies, and newer approaches like psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy.

How can you address anhedonia?

A few tips can help you push back against anhedonia. One is to make yourself do what you usually enjoy and value, even if you’re not in the mood. This takes effort; start with small steps, and eventually push yourself to schedule activities that make you leave the house, even if you don’t see the point. If you can’t think of anything that brings you joy, think about things that used to bring you joy, perhaps as a child. Oftentimes a change in behavior can change thoughts and feelings—even though we often think the pathway should be reversed.

Another practice is savoring. Anhedonia can lead you to discount small moments of joy or write them off as a waste of time if they don't make you feel better. Instead, use all five senses to notice the tiniest elements of joy, such as the smell of a fresh cookie, and savor them.

How can you add more pleasure to your life?

When life feels difficult, it can help to break overwhelming tasks into a series of small steps, reward any anticipatory excitement you feel, view setbacks as life lessons, and recognize that rewards come with time. These strategies can help you seek out enjoyable activities even if you’re feeling low. 

If you’re feeling stronger, engaging in mindfulness, especially with sensory experiences, setting and meeting goals, maintaining close relationships, and exploring your sense of purpose can boost well-being as well.

Essential Reads