Anhedonia

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In psychology and psychiatry, anhedonia (Greek: an-, “without” + hēdonē, “pleasure”) is defined as the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions.

While earlier definitions of anhedonia emphasized pleasurable experience, more recent models have highlighted the need to consider different aspects of enjoyable behavior, such as motivation or desire to engage in an activity (“motivational anhedonia”), as compared to the level of enjoyment of the activity itself (“consummatory anhedonia”).

According to William James the term was coined by Théodule-Armand Ribot.

One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depression. Sometimes it is mere passive joylessness and dreariness, discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest and spring. Professor Ribot has proposed the name anhedonia to designate this condition. “The state of anhedonia, if I may coin a new word to pair off with analgesia,” he writes, “has been very little studied, but it exists.”

Anhedonia can be a characteristic of mental disorders including mood disorders, schizoaffective disorder, schizoid personality disorder and schizophrenia. For example, people affected with schizophrenia often describe themselves as feeling emotionally empty.

Mood disturbances are commonly observed in many psychiatric disorders. Disturbing mood changes may occur resultant to stressful life events and they are not uncommon during times of physical illness. While anhedonia can be a feature of such mood changes, they are not mutually inclusive.

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