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:
- Social withdrawal
- Feelings of guilt
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
- Unexplained physical complaints
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.
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.