Anhedonia is a condition that involves a lack of pleasure. When combined with schizophrenia, it can be challenging to navigate.

Anhedonia is a condition that essentially wipes your ability to enjoy things or experience pleasure. This mental health condition is often associated with schizophrenia, which can negatively impact a person’s quality of life.

Anhedonia can manifest in a variety of ways, from physical to social apathy. This condition can look like behavior that you may not immediately associate with anhedonia.

Treatment options can be limited when it comes to anhedonia and schizophrenia, but some help can often be found when treating the source of anhedonia.

Schizophrenia is a mental health condition characterized by hallucinations, disordered thinking, delusions, and reduced social participation.

Schizophrenia is a complex and typically lifelong condition. Anhedonia is considered one of the negative symptoms of schizophrenia.

Research from 2018 suggests that the majority of people with schizophrenia experience anhedonia.

The presence of anhedonia alongside schizophrenia plays a crucial role in the outcomes of schizophrenia. Many of the social issues people with schizophrenia face may be due to anhedonia.

According to research from 2014, anhedonia may be an indicator of a person’s genetic vulnerability to developing schizophrenia.

While anhedonia is closely related to schizophrenia, not all people with schizophrenia will experience symptoms of anhedonia.

Anhedonia is a condition where a person isn’t able to experience pleasure at the same level as others. This reduced capacity to experience pleasant emotions often manifests as disinterest.

Anhedonia is often associated with mental health conditions such as depression and schizophrenia, but not all people who experience anhedonia will have a diagnosed mental health condition.

For some, anhedonia can lead to withdrawing from life and responsibilities.

The most common symptom of anhedonia is a reduction in the ability to experience pleasure, but it can also result in symptoms such as:

  • withdrawal from social situations and relationships
  • poor social skills
  • reduced libido
  • disinterest in physical touch
  • lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities (e.g., hobbies, sports)

Research from 2020 suggests that the symptoms of anhedonia fall into two categories:

  • Physical anhedonia: the lack of interest in previously enjoyable physical activities such as exercise, sex, or eating
  • Social anhedonia: when social activities such as spending time with friends or participating in romantic relationships are no longer enjoyable

Anhedonia can look similar to depression or disinterest. Some of the ways that anhedonia can manifest include:

  • avoiding catching up with friends or not being excited at the thought of spending quality time with them
  • no longer interested in watching a favorite TV show
  • not enjoying the massages you used to love
  • withdrawing from your romantic partner
  • no longer interested in quality time or sexual contact
  • not walking or playing with your pet and feeling indifferent toward them

Anhedonia is a symptom of anhedonia, but the exact cause of it isn’t known.

A 2019 review found that anhedonia may be closely linked to substance use disorders, indicating that the neurochemical changes that occur with repeated substance use could result in the diminished ability to experience the pleasure that’s seen in anhedonia.

It’s also possible that inflammation may be responsible for the development of anhedonia, as this is a common side effect of chronic substance use.

But these changes can also occur without substance use occurring.

Changes to brain activity through mental health conditions or general damage could lead to the development of anhedonia.

Anhedonia is also closely linked to other mental health conditions such as:

Recent research also suggests the possibility that anhedonia contains a genetic component. A 2019 study found novel anhedonia-associated genes, indicating that there may be a genetic risk for anhedonia that influences brain structure in regions of the brain responsible for pleasure processing.

How is anhedonia diagnosed?

If you think you’re experiencing anhedonia, consider reaching out to a healthcare or mental health professional. Blood tests or other medical tests may be done to rule out any other potential causes of your symptoms. You may also be given a series of tests, including a psychological evaluation or assessment, to determine if you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition.

If it’s determined that you may be experiencing anhedonia, one or more questionnaires may be used to determine which category of anhedonia you’re experiencing. This could include the Chapman physical anhedonia scale (PhAS) or the Chapman social anhedonia scale (SAS).

Is anhedonia a psychosis?

No. Anhedonia itself is not a psychosis, but it can be an indicator of the future development of psychosis.

How is anhedonia treated?

Treatment options for anhedonia are limited. Treatment may focus on finding the source of your anhedonia and then treating that issue. For example, this could mean targeting depression with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

When it comes to improving enjoyment, both psychological and pharmaceutical treatment options offer relatively ineffective results, according to research from 2016. But treatment may help prevent your symptoms from becoming worse.

Anhedonia involves an inability to feel good. When you have anhedonia, you may lose interest in activities you once enjoyed. This can include hobbies or other enjoyable activities. You may also lose interest in romantic or intimate relationships.

There’s a strong link between anhedonia and schizophrenia. In fact, anhedonia is one of the symptoms of schizophrenia and is experienced by many people with the condition.

Anhedonia is also thought to be a strong indicator that a person may develop schizophrenia. There also may be a genetic component to link anhedonia and schizophrenia.

Further research could help determine what connects the two conditions and how to treat them.