Emotional Flatlining: How to Deal with Anhedonia in Rehab
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.
Symptoms of Anhedonia:
- Avoiding social situations with friends.
- Avoiding romantic relationships or pulling away from current relationships.
- Feeling or thinking more negative about yourself or other people. Including saying negative things to yourself.
- Feeling fewer emotions like joy, sympathy, empathy, and having more blank/unemotional facial expressions.
- Uncomfortable around other people. Including friends, coworkers, or acquaintances.
- Putting on fake emotions. For example, pretending you’re happy around others.
- Decreased or missing sex drive.
- No interest in physical or emotional intimacy.
- Reoccuring physical problems, such as being sick often, aches, pains, or headaches.
Want to know if you have anhedonia?
What Causes Emotional Flatlining?
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 When narcotics are withdrawn, the person is left with a very high tolerance for dopamine and a limited ability to produce it.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.