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  • Why don’t I feel my emotions…..Anhedonia!

    I am sorry for the late post, but as you know I had my CAP exam last week and I needed a little break from writing after it. If any of you are wondering I passed 🙂
    I wanted to share with you an interesting conversation I had the other week with a potential client. It made me think of this topic that for a long time I did not think about and it made me realize how important it is to discuss these kind of issues. Did you ever hear your favorite songs and all of a sudden you were completely unmoved? or maybe hugged your children and felt nothing? looked at a breathtaking sunset and felt numb? You might be experiencing anhedonia.
    The first time I heard the term Anhedonia I had no idea what it meant. After some exploration I realized that it is a state of mind that is fairly depressing. The literal meaning of it is “the inability to experience pleasure.” I am sure now you can understand why I think it is depressing.
    Well, apparently, researchers found that there is a strong correlation between the state of anhedonia and substance abuse. Unfortunately, not many substance abusers know of this condition and it limits their understanding of these feeling of “Blah” that they feel when they begin their recovery journey.   Hatzigiakoumis et al. (2011) stated:

    “Several authors suggested that anhedonia is an important factor involved in relapse as well as in the transition from recreational use to excessive drug intake. In particular, anhedonia has been found to be a frequent feature in alcoholics and addicted patients during acute and chronic withdrawal as well as in cocaine, stimulant, and cannabis abusers.” 

    The way I used to explain it to my clients in treatment was: “imagine the feeling of smelling a rose and how it makes you feel.” Try to think of how it used to feel and how it feels now. Someone normally can have a full sensation and excitement sometimes from smelling a flower. However, someone with anhedonia will most likely smell the flower but will not experience any arousal of emotions due to it.

    What I would suggest for people experiencing anhedonia, especially in early recovery is first to just accept the fact that due to the damage substance abuse causes to the brain it is normal to experience lack of emotions. It is normal to feel that your life was totally flat, and you have no feelings at all. Despite the fact that it could feel devastating, just remember “this too shall pass.” For some people this state last few weeks, and for others few months to a year. Just do not give up!!!  Treatment for anhedonia can include psychotropic medications (like ones for depression), but it could also be tackled by talk therapy, exercise, healthy nutrition, and more. You can read some information about other people experience here. You can contact me and I will be happy to tell you more about it. Call me if you would like at 561-571-1557.