Why don’t I enjoy anything anymore? Why do I take no enjoyment in life? Why can’t I find happiness in anything anymore?
Do you ask these questions?
You’re not alone.
Many people struggle to feel pleasure or happiness in their life. This feeling—or lack of feeling—is a symptom of a larger problem that needs to be addressed. But to do that, you need to understand the reasons why you may be feeling this way in the first place.
By the end of this article, you will be familiar with these reasons and learn the steps you can take to find pleasure and happiness in life again.
It all comes down to something called anhedonia.
Speak to an accredited and experienced therapist to help you find enjoyment in things again. You may want to try speaking to one via BetterHelp.com for quality care at its most convenient.
What is anhedonia?
On hearing statements like “Why can I enjoy anything anymore?” people often conclude that depression is the reason. After all, depression typically mutes or suppresses your ability to feel the full spectrum of emotions.
On the milder end, depression tends to suppress positive emotions like happiness, fulfillment, joy, and hope. On the more severe end, it can suppress any emotion, even negative ones. The feeling of emptiness is far different than that of sadness.
It’s logical to conclude that a lack of pleasure and an inability to feel happy is caused by depression. However, depression may not be the right conclusion. Instead, you may be experiencing anhedonia, otherwise known as emotional flattening.
Anhedonia is defined as an “extreme inability to feel pleasure.” That inability to feel pleasure could be caused by depression, anxiety, mental illnesses, physical illnesses, stresses, or life situations that are unhealthy for you.
There is also a specific sub-type of depression called dysthymia which features the standard symptoms of depression and anhedonia.
It’s normal to have your interests shift and change over time. Old activities may not provide the same pleasure they once did. But anhedonia is a loss or heavy muting of pleasure altogether.
Common Types Of Anhedonia
Anhedonia is used to describe any experience of an inability to feel pleasure. However, anhedonia may not apply to all pleasures that you experience. You might find yourself saying, “I still feel pleasure in relationships, but I find no enjoyment in life. Why can’t I find joy in anything?”
It may be that you’re only experiencing anhedonia in one part of your life. There are two main types of anhedonia—physical and social. Though sometimes one may experience a more specific sub-type of anhedonia, such as exercise or sexual anhedonia, which would be sub-categorized as physical.
Physical anhedonia, also known as sensory anhedonia, is an absence of pleasure from physical or sensory experiences like eating, taste, smell, movement, sound, and sex. You may stop enjoying more abstract pleasurable activities such as reading a book, listening to music, or creating art. You may find yourself asking things like:
“Why don’t I enjoy gardening like I used to?”
“Why don’t I feel happy when I accomplish a goal?”
Social anhedonia is a lack of desire for socialization, communication, or relationships with other people. Typically, the brain produces endorphins and serotonin when engaged in socialization. Humans are social creatures that derive pleasure from interacting with other people. A person experiencing social anhedonia may feel disconnected from others and lonely, even when surrounded by friends and loved ones. You may find yourself asking things like:
“Why don’t I when I spend time with my friends?”
“Why don’t I feel excited to be with my partner?”
Sexual anhedonia would typically be considered a physical anhedonia. You may be unable to enjoy or feel pleasure from the physical act of sex. Your libido may be greatly reduced or even disappear. You may not be able to experience a climax or they become less intense.
Sexual anhedonia is a relatively common side effect of different psychiatric medications.
Symptoms of Anhedonia
How do I know if anhedonia is the reason why I don’t enjoy life anymore?
Self-diagnosis is never a good idea, but you can consider whether you may be experiencing the symptoms of anhedonia. That can help you better inform the medical professional you speak to about it.
Lack of interest or pleasure in things you once found pleasurable.
The hallmark of anhedonia is a lack of interest or pleasure in things you once found pleasurable. This symptom may not be all or nothing. Instead, you may experience a dramatic reduction in what you find pleasurable. That may include things like sex, physical touch, the taste of food, or hobbies.
Emotional numbness or flatness.
Emotional numbness, or flatness, is a disconcerting feeling. Humans are wired to feel a full spectrum of emotions. It’s how we know when things are good or bad, happy or sad. You experience something, then your brain responds to it.
When you experience emotional numbness, you may find that you can only feel a shadow of the emotions that you once did. Those emotions may feel heavily muted or even nonexistent.
Loss of motivation or apathy.
Motivation helps us to do things. It helps us set goals, make plans, and do the work that we need to do to achieve those goals. People with anhedonia may not feel any motivation at all. They may even loathe the idea of putting energy and effort into getting something done because it feels like a large mountain to climb.
Activities may also seem overwhelming or invoke a sense of dread.
A person experiencing social anhedonia may withdraw from their relationships. They may self-isolate, not want to interact with others, or become distant. They may pull away from a romantic partner, not desire intimacy, or prefer to spend more time alone. They may also avoid social engagements, stop talking to friends, and even call out of work to avoid socializing.
Reduced libido or desire for intimacy.
Anhedonia may reduce drive and desire for sexual intimacy. The person may experience much less or no pleasure at all from sexual experiences. That may also manifest as a lack of romantic or intimate desire.
What causes anhedonia?
Anhedonia is frequently linked to different mental or physical health issues as a symptom even though it is not a diagnosable mental illness itself.
Genetics and physical structure of the brain.
Anhedonia is directly related to a range of genetic and biological factors. Genetic risk factors include family members with substance abuse disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses in which anhedonia may be a symptom.
Neuroimaging, experimental, and genetic studies have confirmed that neurobiological mechanisms impair the brain’s reward systems. Neurotransmitter dysfunction affects dopamine, endorphins, and norepinephrine and the brain’s ability to use them. The theory behind this is called Reward Deficiency Syndrome.
Certain personality traits like neuroticism, pessimism, or self-criticism are tied to anhedonia. Studies have also found that anhedonia plays an inverse relationship with agreeableness, extraversion, and sociotropy. That is, people who are agreeable, extroverted, or who place a high value on social relationships are less likely to develop anhedonia.
Furthermore, brain development in a growing child may also cause a predisposition toward anhedonia. Childhood trauma and stress directly affect the structural development of the brain and can make that person predisposed to anhedonia, mental illnesses, and substance abuse disorder.
Mental and physical health conditions.
Anhedonia is a symptom of various mental illnesses with a high correlation with depression. It may also present in cases of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, substance abuse disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and many more.
Stress and trauma may cause physical and chemical changes to the brain that may be responsible for anhedonia.
Anhedonia may also be a symptom of physical illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, and Parkinson’s. Other factors like thyroid issues, sleep apnea, or even aging may be responsible.
Nutrition plays an integral role in mood and emotional health. Your body needs certain vitamins and minerals to fuel itself and function properly. A poor diet may increase the chances of a person experiencing anhedonia.
The side effects of medications are varied. Anhedonia is a side effect that you may experience from different medications. It’s a common side effect of some antipsychotics and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
People who are in abusive relationships may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. Poverty may cause complex PTSD as you can never feel truly comfortable while worrying about eating, keeping the lights on, or paying the next emergency expense that you can’t afford.
Social isolation, loneliness, and a lack of support can cause you to slip into depression or develop anhedonia as those needs are not being met. Humans are social creatures and many mental processes benefit from having at least a little social interaction.
Stress contributes to increased production of stress hormones like cortisol which are not healthy over a long period of time. Anyone living in a stressful situation, which may also include cultural or social alienation like racism or classism, may be more prone to a lack of pleasure.
What do I do if I don’t enjoy anything anymore?
Currently, there are no treatments that specifically target anhedonia. As common as anhedonia is with depression, SSRIs can make the problem worse by causing sexual dysfunction and emotional blunting.
Ketamine therapy may prove to be an effective treatment for anhedonia, though it has not yet been thoroughly studied. Ketamine therapy is a common treatment for depression and bipolar disorder. In the study addressing treatment for bipolar disorder, ketamine was found to reduce the effects of anhedonia.
In addition to medical treatment, lifestyle and habit changes may help reduce the severity of anhedonia.
What kind of lifestyle and habit changes can you make?
1. Consume less negative media.
There is so much bad news in the world and your brain isn’t wired to deal with the constant stream of negativity.
It’s a matter of continually beating yourself down with all the awful things in the world whether it’s from the news, social media, or other negative media.
It’s difficult to be happy and find enjoyment when you’re constantly watching sad things or leaning into depression. Sure, indulging may feel cathartic in that moment, but it’s not going to do you any favors in the long term.
Some solutions include limiting how much news you watch. There’s no reason to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle. If you want to stay informed, block out a small period of time in your day to look at the news. After that, avoid it completely.
Audit what content you consume on social media, watch, and listen to. Try to minimize the negative and add some inspirational or happy media into your habits. Include media that might have made you happy before you stopped feeling pleasure.
Take some time to examine who you follow on social media. Yes, there is a lot of negative news and angry people. However, there are also many artistic or inspirational pages that you could follow.
2. Get active and exercise.
Exercise provides many benefits for the human body and brain. Not only do you keep your body in good working order, but it also encourages your brain to produce more endorphins that are responsible for happiness and pleasure. Exercise facilitates serotonin production which helps with pleasure and mood-balancing.
You don’t need to exercise a lot to benefit. Even walking a few times a week will help provide valuable maintenance to your body and mind. The human body is not built for the sedentary lifestyle that many of us lead. Your body and brain need movement and exercise to stay healthy.
3. Cut back on sugar, caffeine, and energy drinks.
Sugar, caffeine, and energy drinks are staples of our culture. Everything seems to be loaded with sugar to enhance flavor. Caffeine is the miracle elixir that allows you to function when you’re trying to wake up. And energy drinks provide a boost of energy when you need it most.
None are good for your body in large doses. Regular use may lead to a loss of pleasure as your brain is taxed from over-stimulation.
Excessive consumption of sugar causes inflammation in the body. Inflammation has an adverse effect on the way the brain functions and produces chemicals. It creates constant stress that the brain needs to deal with. For some people, cutting back on sugar and fixing their diet improves their overall mood and may help them feel pleasure and enjoy life again.
Caffeine is disruptive to the way we sleep and function, particularly if you happen to consume it before bed. Even if you sleep, you may not be falling into a deep enough sleep for your brain to adequately replenish all the mood-balancing, feel-good chemicals that it will need for the coming day.
Less caffeine and sugar will help your overall mood and keep it more balanced throughout the day.
4. Keep a gratitude journal.
Gratitude is a common suggestion for improving happiness and satisfaction in life.
It’s so common that people use it as a throwaway suggestion a lot of time. “Have you tried practicing gratitude? Are you grateful? Why aren’t you more grateful for what you have?”
And then they do a poor job of ever explaining why it’s a powerful tool.
Let’s change that.
The idea behind gratitude is to retrain your brain to look for positive things (the things you have) instead of negative things (the things you don’t have). It’s about appreciating what you have in your life instead of pining after what you don’t have.
Depression and anhedonia encourage your brain to constantly look for and dwell on the negative. You may be able to counter that by taking some time to reflect on positive things.
This is not to suggest that “positive thinking” will undo mental illness or the more severe causes of anhedonia. This is about managing symptoms and improving the overall quality of your present thoughts, rather than just riding the rollercoaster down into the darkest pits of your brain.
A gratitude journal helps because it’s something tangible you can hold onto, go back and read to reflect on, and include other positive things in it that might help boost your mind back up.
5. Identify enjoyable experiences even when you didn’t feel enjoyment at the time.
Enjoyment is different from pleasure. Pleasure is something that you experience in the present. However, we typically don’t realize that we enjoyed something until we look back on the experience. Anhedonia can affect both.
Enjoyment has a rational, mental element to it along with the emotional element. You think about the enjoyment as well as feel it. If you can’t seem to enjoy anything right now, you might be too focused on the feeling and not enough on the thoughts.
Next time you do something that you used to enjoy or that you think you should enjoy, don’t worry about what you’re feeling; just consider whether that activity was or is enjoyable.
Say you did a little gardening, which is something you once found a lot of enjoyment in. Maybe you didn’t get that same feeling this time, but you should hopefully be able to look at it from a rational perspective and see that it was something that wasn’t unenjoyable. It helped pass the time, it was productive, it has made your garden a nicer place to be (or will do once things flower or grow), it might even have been a good workout for your body.
Like the gratitude journal, it might not solve the underlying causes of your anhedonia, but this cognitive enjoyment can help you feel a little better about your day in the meantime and counter persistent negative thoughts created by anhedonia.
6. If you can’t be positive, try not to be negative.
Some people look at things as black or white, right or wrong, positive or negative. But there is a middle ground where it’s much easier to find a little peace of mind and enjoyment.
If you can’t be positive, at least try not to be negative. Being neutral is okay if that can get you through a difficult moment.
The problem with dwelling on negative thoughts is that it encourages them to spiral into darker places. The more you think about it, the worse it gets, the deeper you spiral, and the more you dwell in that dark place.
It’s almost impossible to enjoy anything when you’re drowning in that negative space. And the best way to avoid drowning in that negative space is to try to stay out of it to begin with.
Sit down, consider what kind of negative thoughts you regularly have, and then come up with neutral thoughts to replace them. When those negative thoughts creep in, force them out by repeating the neutral replacements you found for them.
This practice can help improve your mind’s overall environment and facilitate more enjoyment and happiness.
7. Do seek out professional help.
Sometimes anhedonia is temporary; sometimes it’s not. If you find that your lack of enjoyment is interfering with your ability to conduct your life or has been present for a long time, it is a good idea to talk to a mental health professional.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address.
And that’s okay. Everyone experiences depression and anhedonia at some point. Life is difficult and stressful, and sometimes the brain has a hard time coping with all of it at once. There is no shame in admitting we need a little extra help once in a while.
BetterHelp.com is a website where you can connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
And online therapy is actually a good option for many people. It’s more convenient than in-person therapy and is more affordable in a lot of cases. And you get access to the same level of qualified and experienced professional.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
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