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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In psychology, anhedonia (< Greek αν- an-, without + ηδονή hēdonē, pleasure) is an inability to experience pleasure from normally pleasurable life events such as eating, exercise, social interaction or sexual activities.

Anhedonia is recognized as one of the key symptoms of the mood disorder depression according to both the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM IV) and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD). Other than anhedonia, the DSM considers only depressed mood to be a key symptom. The ICD lists both depressed mood and fatigue or loss of energy as the other key symptoms. Anhedonia is also seen in schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, schizoid personality disorder and other mental disorders.



Researchers theorize that anhedonia may result from the breakdown in the brain's reward system, involving dopamine pathways. Two 2005 studies by Paul Keedwell MD of King's College found that certain sections of the brain in depressed subjects had to work harder to process happy thoughts.[1][2]

Anhedonia is often experienced by drug addicts following withdrawal; in particular, stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines cause anhedonia and depression by depleting dopamine and other important neurotransmitters. Very long-term addicts are sometimes said to suffer a permanent physical breakdown of their pleasure pathways, leading to anhedonia on a permanent or semi-permanent basis due to the extended overworking of the neural pleasure pathways during active addiction, particularly as regards to cocaine and methamphetamine. In this circumstance, activities still may be pleasurable, but can never be as pleasurable to people who have experienced the comparatively extreme pleasure of the drug experience. The result is apathy towards healthy routines by the addict.

Anhedonia may also be an effect of prolonged fatigue.

Significance in depression

As a clinical symptom in depression, anhedonia rates highly in making a diagnosis of this disorder. The DSM describes a "lack of interest or pleasure" but these can be hard to tell apart given that people become less interested in things which do not give them pleasure. The DSM criterion of weight loss is probably related to it and many depressed people with this symptom describe a lack of enjoyment from food.

Sexual anhedonia

Sexual anhedonia in males is also known as 'ejaculatory anhedonia'. This rare condition means that the person will ejaculate with no accompanying sense of pleasure.

The condition is most frequently found in males, but women can suffer from lack of pleasure when the body goes through the orgasm process as well.

Sexual anhedonia may be caused by:

It's very uncommon that a neurological examination and blood tests can determine the cause of a specific case of sexual anhedonia.

Patients may be prescribed sustained-release bupropion to aid in treatment, which has been shown to relieve sexual dysfunction even in patients without depression.[4]

See also


  1. ^ "No Pleasure, No Reward -- Plenty of Depression" by John McManamy; URL accessed 2007-02-08
  2. ^ "Neural systems underlying affective disorders" by Simon Surguladze, et al., Advances in Psychiatric Treatment (2003) 9: 446-455; URL accessed 2008-02-08
  3. ^ "Persistent Sexual Dysfunction after Discontinuation of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors" By Csoka et al., Journal of Sexual Medicine 5 (1) , 227–233; URL accessed 2008-02-28
  4. ^ Crenshaw TL, Goldberg JP, Stern WC (1987). "Pharmacologic modification of psychosexual dysfunction". J Sex Marital Ther 13 (4): 239–52. PMID 3121861.  

External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

WOTD - 18 July 2008    



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From French anhédonie (coined by Ribot, 1896), from Ancient Greek ἀν- + ἡδονή (pleasure).





anhedonia (uncountable)

  1. (medicine, psychiatry) The inability to feel pleasure.
    • 1902, William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience, Folio Society 2008, p. 123:
      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.

Derived terms


Simple English

In psychology, anhedonia (< Greek αν- an-, without + ηδονή hēdonē, pleasure ) is not finding happiness or pleasure in events that are normally pleasurable. This may include things like eating, exercise, and social or sexual interaction.

Anhedonia is often a symptom of depression. It is also a symptom of schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

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