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When Mental Illness Causes You to Experience Anhedonia

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I struggle daily with anhedonia — the inability to feel pleasure. Many people who are put on antidepressants may feel similarly. Some days I get this urge to be more happy. But I’m lacking the ability to feel. I have zero emotion.

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As I read “Emptiness: The Un-Feeling Feeling” by Jonice Webb PhD, I grasp at her every word. She writes,

Everyone knows what ‘empty’ means. It’s a simple word, easily understood. But what does ‘empty’ mean in terms of human feelings and emotions? Here, it is not so simply defined. What is Emptiness?

The feeling that’s caused by the absence of feeling; a general sense that something is missing inside yourself; a feeling of disconnection from yourself and others; numbness; sometimes experienced physically as an empty space in your belly, chest, throat or other part of the body.

It’s not something people generally talk about. Few people have had the words to describe it. It is incredibly healing and connecting to put a label on a plaguing, undefined feeling that has dogged you for years. A label offers understanding and hope, and a path somewhere.

And I think it feels different for everyone. One person said to me, “I feel like a player in the movie of my own life.” Another said, “I feel like I’m on the outside, looking in at other people who are truly living.”

In my life, I come across this feeling daily. It’s a dull feeling. It’s as if my brain isn’t triggering correctly. I try and cope with this by adding positive coping skills such as affirmations or meditation.

In Psychology Today, writer Faith Brynie Ph.D. writes,

Anhedonia can take two forms. The first is a disinterest in social contact and a lack of pleasure in social situations. Physical anhedonia, on the other hand, is the inability to feel happiness from eating, touching or sex. I personally will force myself to engage in positive activities, in an attempt to find brief amounts of satisfaction. Be mindful if you have these symptoms. Many people who struggle with depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, recent trauma or illness might experience anhedonia.

An inability to experience pleasure can impact your quality of life. Contact your doctor immediately if you feel this way. Treatment might be able to help. Once you start treatment, you should be able to start feeling pleasure again. Anhedonia usually goes away once depression is managed.

Follow this journey here.

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Unsplash photo via Allef Vinicius 

Originally published: October 25, 2017
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