Feel Like You Don’t Enjoy Anything Anymore? There’s a Name for That – and You Can Break Through It

Most of us have cancelled Saturday night plans to binge Bridgerton at home. Even when you planned your favorite home-cooked supper, you don’t feel like cooking. However, this state of mind might worsen, making it hard to understand why you don’t love things anymore. What if you’re bored doing something you used to love?

Anhedonia is the lack of pleasure from previously enjoyed things. Anhedonia resembles boredom, but it’s accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm to attempt. Anhedonia sufferers think nothing is worth attempting since nothing feels nice anymore. Anhedonia may be holding you back. Here’s all you need to know.

Depression, anxiety, and PTSD often cause anhedonia. Anhedonia may be affecting more people and to a greater extent since the pandemic began.1

Sigal Levy, Ph.D., a certified clinical psychologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., says situational depression and anhedonia can occur in people without clinical depression. Austin psychologist Miranda Nadeau, Ph.D., concurs. “It’s something a lot of people experience, at least at one point in their lives,” she says.

The brain has reward circuits. Reward circuits indicate what’s worthwhile.

“If you’re having someone do a task where they have the opportunity to win money, for example, you’ll see these brain regions involved in the reward circuit having functional connections with each other,” says Emory University School of Medicine associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Jennifer Felger, Ph.D.

Dopamine connects brain areas. Dopamine determines rewards and methods. It determines threat. Anhedonia patients may have poor reward circuit interaction, according to Felger. Tiffany Ho, Ph.D., a cognitive neuroscientist and assistant professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at UC San Francisco, believes this reduced communication across regions signals dopamine imbalance.

Felger also argues that chronic brain and body inflammation—often seen in depression and anhedonia following stressful events—can lead to less interactive reward circuit regions.

The threat circuit, which searches for danger, is amplified. “Now that we have so many fearful and emotional things going on in the world, the brain is responding more and more to threats and less and less to things that are rewarding, just based on what we’re exposed to,” says Felger. She adds that our brain’s reward and threat circuits are always functioning, but one uses more brain energy and runs less efficiently.

Reduce inflammation and balance dopamine with lifestyle modifications.
Ho said certain people may be genetically predisposed to dopamine imbalance. “But a lot of the things that help balance dopamine levels are modifiable, such as sleeping sufficiently, exercising or moving more, reducing psychosocial stress, eating consistent healthy meals, and engaging in important social interactions.” Prioritizing lifestyle modifications reduces brain and bodily inflammation.

Nadeau says creating meaningful social ties entails talking to someone you trust, even if you don’t want to. “Weak social connections can lead to anhedonia and depression.”

Start limiting gadgets at night.
Electronic devices are our main windows to the world and each other. Felger thinks becoming habituated to reward indications from phones and computers can diminish our ability to enjoy non-electronic events.

In the hours before night, Felger recommends steadily reducing technology use to promote sleep.

Be your own best buddy.
“Do anything you can to convey to yourself that you are worthy of care and compassion,” adds Nadeau. To show yourself that you deserve attention, ask yourself, “What would be most helpful for me right now?” How can I love myself?”

All-or-nothing mentality can hinder self-care. All-or-nothing mentality is assuming that socializing requires entertaining activities and easy-flowing conversations. Knowing this thinking pattern helps you brainstorm better thoughts and boosts motivation.

Keep a negative thought worksheet.
Nadeau says anhedoniacs often hold beliefs in three categories.

“You might have negative views of yourself, combined with negative views of the world, which isn’t surprising at the moment, and negative views of the future, like ‘it’s not going to get better’ or ‘I’m always going to feel this way.'”

Nadeau recommends a thought worksheet to alter your views. Write down a situation, your moods, and your automatic ideas (about yourself, the world, or the future) on paper.

Write down facts for and against the major, automatic thought driving moods. Nadeau says this positions you to analyze all the information your brain is getting, including negative, neutral, and positive.

After this, evaluate your moods objectively.

Neutralize negative thinking.
Nadeau suggests assessing negative thoughts and creating neutral thoughts to counter them. A neutral thought may be, “Even though my friend and I aren’t as close as we used to be, she still checks in on me.”

Nadeau explains, “It takes into account something negative and positive and draws them together,” making it practical and easy to embrace.

Record everyday gratitude.
Nadeau suggests writing down simple things you’re grateful for in a journal to remember the good in your life. “You may be grateful for having food on your plate, a pillow to rest your head on every night, or the moon and how it shows up every night.” Even if you only write two items, do this daily.

Try an old hobby.
“It can be really discouraging to do something you usually love and find it isn’t anymore,” Nadeau explains. Levy proposes treating these activities differently to fight your now-negative attachment with them. Instead of seeking satisfaction, leave the activity with a neutral perspective such, “I’ve done something to improve the way I feel.”

Start with 15-minute TV shows or walks. To develop mindfulness, Levy suggests noting feelings like the scratchy blanket across your knees while watching a sports game.

Seek counseling when needed.
While the above tips can be helpful, Levy recommends seeing a therapist or psychiatrist if the anhedonia (or depression) has been present for a long time and started to affect daily life.

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