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WHAT IS AN ANHEDONIA?
Anhedonia is one of the core symptoms associated with major depressive disorder (MDD). The best way to describe Anhedonia is 'the loss of interest in activities that an individual would typically enjoy combined with an inability to express or feel happiness: It seems as if the portions of the brain responsible for acknowledging pleasure have shut down. Most people will experience a mild form of Anhedonia during their lifetime.
When individuals who are not familiar with the signs and symptoms of depression receive an Anhedonia diagnosis, their first response is usually, “Can Anhedonia be cured?” Although, at this point in time, depression is not curable, research to find a cure continues around the globe. Some believe that depression is reaching epidemic levels, which is one of the reasons that so many researchers are working on finding a cure. In fact, research suggests that nearly 20 percent of Americans will experience major depression sometime in their lives.
What is known about depression is that the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) portion of the brain is responsible for releasing a chemical called dopamine into several parts of the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward and pleasure centers of the brain. When an individual has Anhedonia, the mPFC malfunctions and neglects to release dopamine (which is frequently referred to as the ‘feel good hormone’).
While there are several methods of testing available that can be used to diagnose Anhedonia, the test that is considered the best is the Scale for the Assessment of Negative Symptoms (SANS) because it contains the Anhedonia-Asociality Subscale: This test covers a wide range of topics, including social interaction, personal hobbies, sexual activities and feelings of intimacy. Blood tests may also be ordered to check various body functions, including the thyroid.
SYMPTOMS OF ANHEDONIA
There is a difference between common depression and MDD. An individual who is suffering from common depression feels an intense sadness; however, moments of joy are possible. When an individual has MDD with Anhedonia, he or she can no longer feel joy: Previous activities that brought pleasure do not stimulate happiness anymore. Individuals who have MDD are not the only people who suffer from Anhedonia, people who have schizophrenia and a variety of other mood disorders, including bipolar, as well as individuals who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an addiction to drugs and/or to alcohol.
The inability to be happy is only one of the symptoms of Anhedonia, other symptoms include:
- Social withdrawal
- No interest in routine activities (weekly book club, Bunko night, favorite television show, etc.)
- Loss of appetite
- No sex drive
- Flat moods/Emotionally empty
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CONVENTIONAL TREATMENT OF ANHEDONIA
The conventional treatment for this condition includes psychotherapy and prescription medications. Typically, psychotherapy is the first step. Most patients will receive suggestions from their psychotherapists, encouraging them to participate in regular exercise routines and practice yoga. In addition, patients are to refrain from smoking, avoid alcoholic beverages, get plenty of rest and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Patients may also attend group meetings. However, in the event that psychotherapy, group meetings, and suggested lifestyle changes are not successful in relieving the symptoms of Anhedonia, drug treatment will need to be implemented.
Drug treatment options include serotonin receptor antagonists, dopamine agonists and stimulants like dextroamphetamine. Some experts consider the current medications for Anhedonia inadequate. Furthermore, over time, these medications stop working as the patient’s body becomes accustomed to them. For this reason, some individuals suffering from Anhedonia choose to contact Florida Health & Wellness Institute to find a more natural treatment for their MDD with Anhedonia: A custom-designed program that embraces the diagnostic benefits of conventional medicine and the treatment benefits of integrative medicine.
Dr. Jorge Peláez was a neurologist and sleep specialist for nearly 20 years before he decided to concentrate on providing patients with solutions to their medical issues through the use of conventional and integrative medicine; whereas conventional medicine concentrates on the physical body, integrative medicine considers the person as a whole. Therefore, when diagnosing patients, Dr. Peláez uses the benefits of conventional medicine and when treating his patients, Dr. Peláez uses integrative and health optimization medicine techniques, thus taking the patient's mind, spirit, and body into consideration.
Each patient is unique, which is why Dr. Peláez takes the time to create personalized treatment plans that are specifically designed to meet the needs of a particular patient. The treatment plan created for individuals who are suffering from MDD and Anhedonia may include deep breathing techniques to promote relaxation, yoga to raise serotonin levels (which helps regulate mood), intestinal and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis health, customization nutrition, supplements that have natural antidepressant properties and exercise to relieve stress. Dr. Peláez may also request that the patient discontinue drinking caffeinated beverages, eating and drinking products containing aspartame (an artificial sweetener) as well as to avoid drinking alcoholic beverages: Eliminating these from the diet can increase the serotonin levels in the brain.
If you believe you have Anhedonia, or you have already been diagnosed with this condition, click the button below to schedule your initial consultation.