I used to have hobbies. They filled my time so much that I barely had any to twirl my thumbs. But now, none of what used to excite and interest me can tickle my fancy. I have no interest in anything lately.
This particular turn of events wasn’t alarming to me at first. I’m a fickle person, you see, and prone to short-term obsessions. It’s not that uncommon that I abandon an interest and move on.
But this time, I wasn’t moving on. I was merely disinterested.
The idea that I have no interest in anything (and I do mean anything) definitely scares me. Nothing can excite me, make me happy, or bring that joyous feeling that usually came hand in hand with my hobbies. This sort of flatlining of emotions is quite frightening.
I’m used to actually feeling my emotions. What’s more, doing pleasurable things is a significant part of my personality. So, when I realized that nothing could excite me anymore, I had the urge to chase that lovely high. I even contemplated skydiving for a while, and I’m deathly afraid of heights!
After a while, I admitted that extreme sports might be too risky for me. What’s more, I wanted my old levels of interest back! Sure, I don’t expect to sit on the edge of my seat or squeal from excitement just because I grabbed a good book or found a great show on Netflix. But I expect at least a twinge of some emotion to rattle my insides.
So, I did a bit of research. It turns out that I have no interest in anything due to a disorder.
What Is Anhedonia?
In layman’s terms, anhedonia is the lack of ability to feel pleasure. It’s similar and yet distinctly different from depression.
Well…I say different, but what I mean is that it’s a smaller problem. If depression is The Big Bad, anhedonia is, I guess, its little cousin. And that is actually an important fact to know.
At first, I thought I simply slipped into some high-functioning form of depression without even realizing it. If you’re experiencing a lack of emotions or an emotional flatline when it comes to things you used to enjoy, the “Oh, no, it’s depression!” thought has probably crossed your mind as well.
But before you get too excited (or, you know, don’t, because you can’t), know this: anhedonia is one of the main symptoms of depression.
The Opposite of Hedonism
As most know, hedonism is the act of indulgence. You find something that you like and that pleases you, and you bask in it.
Simple, right? Yes — until one day, you find that you’re unable to enjoy yourself at all.
Anhedonia is the opposite of hedonism. So when I say that I have no interest in anything, I do mean anything. This disorder is a deficit of the hedonic function. It manifests in the lack of ability to experience pleasure.
Still, the disorder varies. You can become completely unable to experience pleasure. Alternatively, you can experience it in a different way than you used to.
Being anhedonic means that you don’t want, crave, or feel motivated by things that used to excite you. In other words, your motivation is lacking, and you can’t experience anticipatory or consummatory pleasure.
Now, you may be wondering what that means precisely. Well, do you remember that feeling of excitement that you have when you hear the announcement date for the next season of your favorite show?
That’s anticipatory pleasure. You know something good is coming your way. You’re practically giddy with excitement! Game of Thrones fans will know what I’m talking about — they had to wait for that last season forever.
When the new season finally graces your screen, and you play that first episode, you feel great. After you finish watching it, you’re content and entertained. That’s consummatory pleasure.
If you have the misfortune to develop anhedonia, you’ll feel neither. But why?
I Have No Interest in Anything — Why?
Anhedonia is a core symptom of many mood disorders. Depression, of course, is one of the main illnesses that often come with anhedonia. In fact, this disorder is usually a major symptom of depression.
But just because someone has depression doesn’t mean they’ll experience a lack of pleasure, and vice versa.
Anhedonia can also be a side effect of severe PTSD, for example. Other disorders that often include anhedonia as one of the potential symptoms are:
• bipolar disorder
• severe anxiety
• substance addiction
• traumatic events
• social isolation
Aside from that, taking prescription medication for depression, anxiety, and psychosis can also cause anhedonia.
The Relationship Between Anhedonia and Mood Disorders
What happens when depressed people lose interest in something they previously found enjoyable? Well, their depression digs itself just a little bit deeper into brain chemistry.
Anhedonia is the direct result of the malfunctioning of the reward system. Human brains are magnificent and powerful. So when they malfunction, the consequences are dire.
The reward system is a neurological system that is responsible for a lot of things. It motivates people, helps them learn, and imposes positive reinforcement.
It’s also responsible for positive emotions. Joy, pleasure, happiness, and euphoria are all little minions of your neural reward system. When you do something pleasurable, the reward system releases “happy chemicals” that flood your brain and make you feel positive emotions.
It’s called the reward system because the chemicals (neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin) are the gifts your brain gives you when you do something well (or good). These little rewards also motivate you to continue doing those things.
Types and Symptoms
There are several types of this nasty disorder. You can experience the social, sexual, or even the musical variety. In general, you can either have social or physical anhedonia.
Although you rarely experience anhedonia on its own, it is possible. Still, it’s usually a symptom of a bigger (mood) disorder.
The social type entails a distinct lack of will and motivation for social interactions. It also means that you can’t derive pleasure from socializing like you used to.
In other words, you have no interest in hanging out with your loved ones. Your friends might invite you out, but you don’t feel like going. What’s more, when you do hang out with people that you like and love, you feel no pleasure (like you used to). So, what do you do?
You avoid it, of course, which leads to social isolation. Ironically, social isolation can also contribute to anhedonia. Psychological disorders have a funny way of dragging you into a vicious cycle.
Social anhedonia has various symptoms:
• you have no interest in socialization
• your friends no longer make you feel good, and you can’t feel happy in their presence
• you find yourself faking emotions (such as happiness) more often than not
• you don’t express yourself while in the company of others like you used to (you don’t talk as much, and you can’t pick up on social cues as well as before)
When people talk about not being able to experience pleasure, they usually talk about a lowered libido. Sexual anhedonia is a common symptom of many mood disorders.
But the issue goes beyond a low libido. When you have physical anhedonia, you can’t derive pleasure from physical touch. Perhaps you loved to cuddle before, but now it does nothing for you. You don’t seek out the touch and comfort of other people because it’s no longer pleasurable.
That, of course, impacts both your social and sexual life. It’s also potentially devastating for your well-being.
The physical variety of this disorder also means that you’ve lost interest in all forms of physical activity. So all those sports that you used to enjoy and use as a way to stay in shape? Your desire to engage in them is practically gone!
A Few Parting Words
Because anhedonia is a fickle beast, it is not easy to treat. Usually, you have to tackle the mood disorder that’s causing it. And…that’s what I’m doing now.
Once I accepted that the fact that I have no interest in anything is a huge issue, I sought professional help. Battling mood disorders and all their symptoms is an uphill battle, but it’s not impossible. So, educate yourself about anhedonia and ask for help from people who can give it. Before you know it, you’ll feel better!