Anhedonia is a common side effect when recovering from addiction and can be a dangerous precursor for relapse if not clearly understood. Because understanding anhedonia can also help reduce the risks of relapse, it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of anhedonia, know how to treat them, and understand what’s causing them. This article will also cover why people in addiction recovery experience it and how long the symptoms typically last.
Addiction, like mood disorders, affects dopamine in the rewards system. Every time someone with addiction uses narcotics, it creates high levels of dopamine.
Eventually, the brain becomes used to these high levels of dopamine and stops producing dopamine on its own. When narcotics are withdrawn, the person is left with a very high tolerance for dopamine and a limited ability to produce it. As a result, their brain can no longer create dopamine in response to pleasure, and what it does produce has little effect due to the high dopamine tolerance.
In addition to the dopamine deficit, another part of anhedonia is psychological. Life in active addiction has a lot of adrenaline. When this person enters recovery, they go from a life of constant adrenaline to almost none.