Are There People Who Cannot Experience Pleasure?

Are There People Who Cannot Experience Pleasure?

Apart from some people who are just plain grumpy, there is also a psychiatric condition known as anhedonia. With anhedonia there is the total absence of experiencing pleasure in the things that are normally pleasurable to everyone else. No matter what a person says, does or thinks, they do not receive any pleasure from it at all! Anhedonia literally means “without pleasure.”

Anhedonia is sometimes seen in schizophrenics and epileptics, and is one of the earliest signs of a variety of neuroses. According to one theory of anhedonia, it occurs when the person’s own psychological reward-value system is somehow blocked. They become emotionally numb to any pleasurable feelings at all. They are in for a pretty miserable life. It seems that all sorts of things can block the reward-value system.

One of these is witnessing trauma, violence and the suffering of others. In a study of US combat veterans now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), researchers report that many with PTSD also suffer emotional numbing and (you guessed it) anhedonia. Woody Allen’s 1977 film Annie Hall was originally entitled “Anhedonia.” In the film, Allen’s character remarks that his belief is that life can be described as moving between the terrible and the horrible. Sure sounds like anhedonia alright!

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