In this post/article I would like to discuss something very personal and in many ways very painful to me…
Allow me to introduce Mr Anhedonia to you. But please understand that I do so not because he deserves recognition in your life, but because you deserve to have the recognition that he may well be in your life – if indeed he is.
I truly mean it. If there is one name that I believe every person with depression or mental health related illnesses should be aware of it is that of “Anhedonia”.
Mr Anhedonia is Greek, well actually to be more accurate his name is Greek and means “without pleasure”. Aptly named since “an” means “without” and “hēdonē” means “pleasure” and because that is the primary characteristic of Mr. Anhedonia, (A secondary characteristic seems to be his expertise in stealth) a lack of pleasure is synonymous with him.
But to imply from this that Mr. Anhedonia is without pleasure would, I think, not be right. No, not right at all. Because Mr. Anhedonia is not a person without pleasure. No Mr. Anhedonia’s presence in your life causes you to be without pleasure.
You see actually Mr. Anhedonia is not a person at all. Mr. Anhedonia is a condition or more accurately a symptom. A fully fledged, widely accepted, medically recognized condition or symptom within the fields of psychiatry and psychology.
It is just that Mr. Anhedonia is not very well-known by those who suffer from mental health related illnesses and not often mentioned even when someone has been diagnosed with a related mental health condition. In fact, from what I can tell, up until the late 1980 Anhedonia was pretty much overlooked or ignored.
Present mainly in the lives of folk who suffer from poor mental health such as depression and especially those who experience mood disorders, schizoaffective disorders, schizoid personality disorders, and schizophrenia he can have a devastating affect on sufferers’ self-image, outlook. and relationships.
Have you ever met someone of whom you have thought, “Man, they can suck the fun out of everything!” Well that is Mr. Anhedonia. The only difference is that, as I say, Mr. Anhedonia is not a person at all but a condition and one that is it seems an expert in stealth – what with not often being mentioned or acknowledged when a patient is diagnosed with a related mental health condition. Let me give you an example…
Firstly of that stealth that I mentioned…
The presence of old Anhedonia in someone’s life will without doubt be felt. But will it be identified?
I personally have had mental health issues all of my life or certainly for as much of it as I can remember.
As a child (primarily because of my family situation, the time I grew up in and society’s attitude towards mental health at that time) I soon learned to keep my mental health issues and the voices that I was hearing to myself. Despite my best efforts however, I was packed off to see psychiatrists. I described some of my symptoms and hid others and had it not been my choosing to do so as a result of my immediate dislike and distrust of the psychiatrists I saw at that time, my life would, I fear, have been very different. Even so some of the symptoms that I did venture to share were classic to Anhedonia.
As a teen, yet more psychiatrists and despite my being slightly more open and thus receiving an actual diagnosis there was still no mention of Anhedonia.
As a young man, more psychiatrists and yet more and different diagnoses and yet still no mention of Anhedonia.
All through my adult life, and I should perhaps point out that I am 50 years old this year!, I have seen numerous different psychiatrists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, therapists, cognitive therapists, doctors, specialists etc. And have on numerous occasions with them discussed the symptomatology that I now know to be classic to Anhedonia and yet not one mention! So as you can see old Anhedonia’s expertise at stealth appears unquestionable.
And what about the impact of Anhedronia?
I guess, if I am being honest and objective here, I do need to recognize or at least acknowledge that there are some cross-overs between symptoms when it comes to mental health related illnesses. Additionally I also (as I always like to do) make mention of the fact that I am not an expert nor am I am mental-health practitioner. I am but a mental health sufferer and survivor.
But that having been said let me tell you that even though I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have explained or described to a consulting psychiatrist or mental health practitioner what I now know to be classic Anhedonia – such as “an inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable”. Not once did I receive an explanation of what I was experiencing, or a label for it, or acknowledgement that actually it is quite common for folk with the type of mental-health issues that I have to experience this.
And trust me, Anhedonia and the failure or lack of explanation or diagnosis has had a devastating effect on both myself and my relationships with other.
Its impact on relationships.
I think it is worth re-emphasizing here what I have just said. Not only does Anhedonia have a complete impact on a sufferer’s relationship with his or her self but it can and probably will also have a very deep and significant impact on a sufferer’s relationship with others – especially with his or her family, partner, or spouse.
Relationships are after all built of bonds, commonalities and mutual connections. Experiences and interests “enjoyed” between a husband and wife or between two lovers or between family members produce a commonality, a bond, a mutual connection between them and these are very much part of either the building blocks of relationships or indeed form part of the glue that binds those relationships together.
Consider this, if you will. How demoralizing and destructive can it be when one partner or one person in a relationship fails to enjoy an activity or interest or event that the other(s) fully enjoy? Especially where neither partner or person can fully explain or understand this apparent lack of enjoyment on the part of the one not enjoying it.
Let me ask you this – What would be your natural tendencies in this situation? Would it be to blame the event or the interest or the activity? Or possibly to blame the other person? Or to blame yourself perhaps?
And what if this is not a one-off or an infrequent thing or even specific to one type of activity? What if it is a regular or frequent thing and happens in respect of a whole plethora of activities or events?
Certainly the opportunity to blame the event, or interest, or activity is removed or at best reduced in these circumstances and thus the potential to consider whether the fault lies closer to home much greater.
Phrases such as, “Is it me?”, “Is it something I have done?” become common place either in communication or in thought. And if part of that ‘building block’ or that ‘glue’ that I mentioned before and that binds people together is missing and the reason for this not understood such sadness-based and questioning phrases or thoughts are not only natural but are often joined by others such as, “we are drifting apart and I don’t know what to do about it” or “we are falling out of love and I don’;t know how to repair it.”
And it can get much worse and much more personal…
Add to this Anhedonia’s close cousin Sexual Anhedonia – sometimes experienced as a result of a number of possible causes including the use (or previous use) of SSRI antidepressants or of antidopaminergic neuroleptics and you really have a recipe for disaster, unless their presence is clearly recognized, acknowledged and understood – Trust me I speak from very real experience here. (And there was I thinking I was just a lousy in bed LOL)
In my opinion, enjoying intimacy – be it physical, emotional, mental, spiritual or sexual intimacy – is not only invaluable to a close personal relationship but is in many ways essential. Generally speaking we are hard-wired to need it, desire it, crave it, yearn for it. There can in my opinion be very few equals when it comes to what is essentially a selfless selfish desire and our need for it. And I say that meaning to imply no negativity whatsoever.
The withdrawal or absence of these or even the withdrawal or absence of an enjoyment of these can strike a devastating blow to any relationship unless the cause of that withdrawal or absence of enjoyment is identified and understood and thus compensated for, or worked around.
How do I know this? Well let’s just say that I am a 50-year-old single parent whose marriage ended several years ago mainly as a result of my mental health related issues not least which being, yes you guessed it – old Mr. Anhedonia and his cousin.
So if you think that this may be a part of the symptomatology that you or someone you love or care for experiences I encourage you to do more research on the whole subject of Anhedonia and to speak with your mental-health practitioners about it.
As I said before, I am no expert nor am I a mental health practitioner myself, I am but a mental health sufferer and survivor and I speak from very real experience in this matter. And whilst I have tried to approach this subject from a fairly simplistic and light-hearted perspective I do so not to over-simplify it nor to deny or hide the very real hurt that this has caused and in some ways is still causing in my life – especially with what few relationships I have left.
I am as I said a 50-year-old single parent father whose marriage ended so,e years ago. But I am also a guy who is isolated for a very large portion of his time – not through desire or because he necessarily enjoys being isolated - but because he lacks that ability to desire or to enjoy the alternatives.
It is my sincerest hope and my fervent prayer that not only can this be reversed in my life but that as a result of this post/article perhaps others will be able to avoid some of the pain and suffering I have experienced as a result of not knowing about or understanding this symptom or condition.