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The Role of Anhedonia in Depression in Children and Adolescents


Updated September 20, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Anhedonia, or the diminished capacity to experience pleasure, is a core symptom of major depressive disorder in children.

What Does Anhedonia Look Like in Children and Adolescents?

Anhedonia appears less frequently in children than in adolescents, but is clearly identifiable by age 3. In young children, anhedonia may appear as lack of interest in or not taking pleasure in play.

Adolescents may experience anhedonia more similarly to adults, marked by a lack of interest in sex, friendships, and social activities.

How Does Anhedonia Impact Depression?

Some research suggests that depression with marked anhedonia, or "anhedonic depression," is a specific subtype of major depressive disorder.

Some research has found that anhedonia is associated with a higher risk for suicide.

Other Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Other symptoms of depression in children and adolescents may include:

Anhedonia is highly associated with the diagnosis of major depressive disorder in children. So if anhedonia is present, it is worth talking to your child's pediatrician or other mental health provider even when no other symptoms of depression exist.

A professional can evaluate your child and provide appropriate treatment that can effectively treat her depression and allow her to take pleasure in life.


Joan L. Luby. Preschool Depression: The Importance of Identification of Depression Early in Development. Current Trends in Psychological Science August 2010; 19(4): 525-537.

Zinoviy Gutkovich, Richard F. Morrissey, Ricardo K. Espaillat, and Robert Dicker. Anhedonia and Pessimism in Hospitalized Depressed Adolescents. Depression Research and Treatment. 2011. 1-9.

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