About Anhedonia and Why its Common in Addiction Recovery

About Anhedonia and Why it’s Common in Addiction Recovery

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During addiction treatment for substance abuse disorders, people experience a wide range of feelings which can sometimes leave them at a loss. This can hinder their treatment program and even lead to relapse if they ignore these feelings. One of the common feelings people often experience during addiction recovery is anhedonia.

We’re going to take a closer look at what anhedonia is, its symptoms, and how addiction treatment at a treatment facility can help.

What is Anhedonia?

Anhedonia is the inability to feel joy. While it is often associated with major depressive disorders, it can also occur during the beginning stages of recovery from a substance abuse disorder.1 People who suffer from anhedonia often report feeling hopeless and numb. This can leave them vulnerable to either relapsing or other harmful activity.

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Symptoms of Anhedonia

Recognizing the symptoms of anhedonia in yourself or a loved one is critical to addressing it and getting help.

Common symptoms include:

  • No interest in physical or emotional intimacy
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Feeling or thinking more negatively about yourself and others
  • Putting on fake emotions around others

Experiencing these symptoms, especially during the early stages of a treatment plan for a substance abuse disorder, may be a sign of anhedonia.

Why Do Some People Experience Anhedonia in Addiction Recovery?

While anhedonia is common while recovering from drug and alcohol use, not everyone experiences it.

Anhedonia occurs because there is less pleasure transmitter dopamine in the brain. Excessive amounts of dopamine are created when people are addicted to drugs or alcohol. This causes the brain to stop making dopamine on its own.

Drugs and alcohol create so much dopamine that the brain is intolerant. This is why, over time,  it takes more drugs and alcohol to reach the same euphoric feelings.2

When these substances are no longer there, the brain still has a high tolerance for dopamine and a limited ability to make it. This is what leads to anhedonia.

While anhedonia is common during treatment for substance abuse disorders, the amount of time it takes for someone to overcome it will vary. This will depend on their addiction and how well their brain and body can readjust to life without depending on drugs and alcohol to feel good.

Over time, the body will learn how to function and feel joy without depending on drugs and alcohol. The goal is to look for ways to treat anhedonia and be patient while overcoming it.

How to Treat Anhedonia

Treating anhedonia can be done by helping the body create more dopamine. By doing things to help the body create adrenaline, the body can start to feel good again, and you can regain those feelings of joy that are lacking.

Here are some ideas to get started:

Exercise and Weight Training

Aerobic activities and weight training help to create adrenaline in the body. This can help to temporarily relieve anhedonia and lead to long-term treatment.

Eating Right

Getting the proper nutrition and eating foods that are good for you can also help to treat anhedonia. This means looking for foods that are high in protein as well as limiting foods that are high in saturated fats.


Meditation can help to alleviate anhedonia because it lowers the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol can shrink parts of the brain that use dopamine to regulate mood and emotions.3 When we meditate, we calm our minds and focus on our breath. This activity can help us to de-stress and in return regulate our mood.

Lasting Addiction Recovery at Desert Cove Recovery

At Desert Cove Recovery, we devise customized treatment plans for people with substance abuse disorder. This allows us to treat each patient’s addiction and other issues they are dealing with, including anhedonia.

Our treatment plans can include therapy programs as well as holistic treatment and more to care for the mind and body. The goal is to not only treat the addiction but to promote lasting addiction recovery and prevent future relapse. For more information on our treatment programs, contact Desert Cove Recovery for a confidential assessment. Let us help you live the sober life you deserve.



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4181563/

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181880/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12467090/