The moment I realized something was wrong was when I noticed no joy and eventually no feelings anymore.
At first I gave it a few days but the feelings didn’t come back. Once I realized that, I panicked – that was a real feeling. The panic moved from heart to head and it lived there. I just thought about that I couldn’t feel anything. You could have the misconception that ‘not feeling’ could be a of holiday or a break from the sad feelings. Well it isn’t. It’s just grey. In all 50 shades. Lighter gray, darker grey, middle gray but that doesn’t matter, it’s just grey.
As I understood from my psychiatrist this isn’t a good thing as it ended as the first thing being written down on my letter to another doctor. It is called anhedonia. I like the word, it has some music to it. It don’t like what it does to me.
But that was then and is it back now? The days are as grey as my feelings. Time is something that passes and returns. My head feels like it’s stuffed with cotton balls. I suppose fighting it will leave me more tired as per usual? Or shall I wait till it leaves like a cloud that passes? But I worry that I will ‘invite it’ and it will get worse.
The anhedonia seems to know what I like, it collects all the things and takes them away. It’s like browsing the web when suddenly your internet connection fails. What? What is this?
This is what is left, the internet without a connection. You can google search all you want, you get the same result, ‘error 404 page not found’. No fun, no feelings. Maybe it’s the only way to be sure your system won’t get infected with a virus. You’re safe in the moment because there is nothing to do. I try to think of it as a safety blanket. It usually comes up when I dare to be excited or happy for someting on one hand but stress-levels are higher as usual on the other hand.
The example of the week: I have a lot of stressy appointments due to my finacial situation and there is still insecurity. This circus started the 10th of October. I really wanted to make a long walk with the doggie on Friday but it is lights out. Can that be ‘it’? Is that enough to make me feel nothing?
The curious person I am I find comfort in ‘understanding things’. I found out about different kinds of anhedonia. Who would have guessed? Is it like this fancy empty restaurant where you can choose different kinds of misery? It sure does give it a particular flavor.
Not only is anhedonia a (negative) symptom of depression but people dealing with schizophrenia disorders, BPD or (social) anxiety can encounter it too. At least I am in good company. People without mental health struggles can experience it too. Now I’m really not sure what is happening.
Anhedonia may be linked to a lower activity of the prefrontal cortex which controls the release of dopamine. This however is one sentence that cannot captivate all the specific knowledge about the brain and its functioning.
To make it worse, there is no cure speaking in medical treatment, although antidepressants can stabilize mood and therefore secondary give you the strength and the ability to overcome or deal with anhedonia. More invasive are transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), ECT or vagus nerve stimulation. Counselling is actually the first in line to seek relief while dealing with it.
There are life-events that make you more susceptible to anhedonia, like a history of abuse or neglect, chronic stress, an eating disorder or a major depressive disorder. If I understand well anhedonia can also show up while recovering from depression. This was not in my line of expectations but I’m relieved it doesn’t mean I will relapse in the darkest of the darkest.
Anhedonia is the inability to experience joy or pleasure. You can experience it in different areas of life. I notice it first in the things I really like because off the clear difference. As it goes Pierre notices it even earlier, he says I’m more negative and short tempered and I am just really surprised that there are such sneaky symptoms. In my case it starts out small, I may notice that that particular dish wasn’t good, than it spills over into music, then to daily things which aren’t colorful to begin with and I end up in my bed. Or writing this because I’m tired of lying in bed.
What are different kinds of anhedonia, how can you notice that something is ‘off’? 
- Consummatory anhedonia ; when you don’t feel pleasure in the moment . For me this ones becomes clear with loss of appetite, it is like I don’t taste the food anymore while my eyes tell me that that dish in front of me is really good. Needless to say I won’t make the effort to cook, to set the table or to do the dishes. It’s all pointless when the food tastes no good!
- Anticipatory anhedonia; when you don’t experience pleasure in anticipation of future activities. I think the ‘fun’ thing will not happen at all, I don’t expect it anymore.
- Sexual anhedonia; not feeling fulfillment or enjoyment in sexual actions.
- Specific musical anhedonia; no pleasure in listening to music while being able to process melody and rhythm. Apparently there is also something called melophobia, which is the fear of music. I’m so glad (!) that I don’t have the last one. I do experience no joy in listening to music anymore which can be frustrating as it is a great stress reliever for me and something I am passionate about. I posted a song yesterday. I know I like the song and today, I can’t listen to it, I don’t feel it. Because I know I do like it, I still posted it and I think that my blog can be a thread to hold on too. Maybe I don’t feel like writing, I slowly get the words on the page and it helps me to gather some thoughts. Looking back at previous posts I see that I have interests and that I’ve posted already a lot of them. I may not feel a thing but I see some results. That comforts me.
- Social anhedonia; no interest of interacting with others; it is difficult to adapt socially. What I don’t have is a loss of pleasure when I talk or connect with someone. It doesn’t help that I’m not willing to go out because of way too people-ly and that I decided to live under my blanket. I’ll try tomorrow, I’ll try to take a shower and to show my face. Sometimes I’m just that desperate.
Did you experienced anhedonia? Are there tips on how to deal with it? Is it bad to have it, does it mean that it will get worse or can it make a soft turn? Thank you for reading and I always read the comments!
References and Notes.
 I’ve heard about ketamine but I don’t have experience with it nor I know people who do.
 When you think you are experiencing this, talk with a professional. Ask you’re family doctor or therapist. They can see things more clearly and provide you with the right information for you.
Interesting posts on anhedonia.
- Hedonic Mind – Doubts
- Em – Anhedonia and Depression
- MentalHealth@Home – Depression giveth and depression taketh away: anhedonia and apathy in depression.
When you’re fed up with all the sad stuff, this is a ‘lighter’ read:
Afrenchtoolbox – Sudden Absurdity Syndrome.
Picture click here.