Decreased Affect and Anhedonia

This question was posed to me on an online platform. To begin, if this lack of emotion is observed behavior, it is possible the person is simply not very emotionally expressive. We call emotional expression


. Therefore, someone who shows minimal emotions is said to have

decreased affect

. Some people wear their hearts on their sleeves and some people keep their feelings to themselves. Especially here in America, extroversion and gregariousness are highly valued. People who are quiet or reserved are often seen as upset, depressed, or “up to no good.” From an observational standpoint, it may appear that the person in question is emotionless, when in reality they just don’t let it out for the world to see. Neither way is right or wrong, just different.

A person who is truly lacking in emotion could be suffering from




. Apathy is the lack of motivation or concern about the things going on around you. Anhedonia is defined as the inability to experience pleasure. If the person is truly lacking in emotion, there are a number of possible reasons. In our current culture, it seems that people automatically look toward the psychopath/sociopath explanation, but there are many other possibilities. To clarify, psychopathy and sociopathy are personality traits, not diagnoses. Everybody has these traits to some degree. If a person’s psychopathic or sociopathic traits rise to the level of clinical significance there are several possible diagnoses, the most commonly known of which is antisocial personality disorder. Of course, there are additional criteria to be considered when making such a diagnosis. Other disorders for which decreased affect is listed in the criteria include schizoaffective disorder, schizoid personality disorder, bipolar disorder, emotional trauma/PTSD, and the entire spectra of depressive and anxiety disorders.

An abundance of stressors are the most common cause of apathy and anhedonia. This numbness and lack of concern is usually temporary and self-corrects once the stressors are removed and a short recovery period is experienced. In summary, there are many and varied explanations for decreased affect. Some are self-correcting and some require professional intervention. There is no one name or label to put on that person. Every person and every situation is different.