by Maria Lebron, January 2021
What can you do when you’re feeling down or unmotivated? What can you do when nothing feels enjoyable? What can you do when you have no desire to be around people or do anything? These feelings, clinically known as anhedonia, can be caused by a variety of issues, such as depression, burnout, or a medical or psychiatric disease.
What are the symptoms of anhedonia?
— lack of interest in things which previously were enjoyable
— social withdrawal
— negative feelings toward yourself and others
— not having a sense of purpose
— lack of motivation
— decrease in communication
— blunted emotions
— decreased interest in sex or intimacy
Anhedonia seems to interfere with reward mechanisms so that the anticipation of something which would normally be enjoyable, such as a vacation or dinner with a friend, will no longer seem interesting or exciting. This will cause a lack of motivation to do things or be around people. Instead, these things will seem like a chore, a struggle, a burden, or an impossible task.
How can you overcome anhedonia?
— Even through it’s hard, force yourself to do what you usually enjoy even if you’re not looking forward to it. This may seem overwhelming and take a lot of effort, but it can help to break the cycle of apathy which you’re experiencing. Start with something very small like listening to a favorite song or ordering your favorite coffee drink and then gradually increase the time you spend on activities.
— Mindfulness may be helpful because it makes you focus on appreciating what you’re doing in the present moment instead of thinking about the past or the future. Try to focus on an activity using your senses so that you can try to experience it in a new way.
— Get active. Go for a walk or do some exercise. Exercise will help to release chemicals which can change your mood.
— Try to get the necessary amount of sleep so that sleep deprivation won’t add to feelings of fatigue, lack of motivation, or confusion.
When you start to feel a little more motivated, you can try to take on an activity that you’ve never done before, but initially stick with something that you’d done in the past and had been enjoyable.
Even if initially it feels like you’re going through the motions, keep at it. You may not get the same amount of enjoyment or satisfaction as you would have if you felt better, but learn to appreciate any small amount of joy or satisfaction you feel.
If you find that you’re unable to overcome the anhedonia, you may want to first check with your medical doctor to rule out a medical cause to the symptoms. If there is no medical issue and you’re still having problems overcoming the anhedonia, seek professional help to address some of the issues which may be causing these feelings.