Anhedonia historical perspective

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1] ; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Pratik Bahekar, MBBS [2]


Concepts of anhedonia has been evolving over last two centuries. Many scientist, psychiatrist and many writers have described anhedonia in various capacities.

Historical Perspective

Anhedonia was first recognized in 19th century. Towards 1980's it gained more attention with other symptoms of depression. According to William James the term was coined by Théodule-Armand Ribot. One can distinguish many kinds of pathological depression. Sometimes it is mere passive joylessness and dreariness, discouragement, dejection, lack of taste and zest and spring. Professor Ribot has proposed the name anhedonia to designate this condition. "The state of anhedonia, if I may coin a new word to pair off with analgesia," he writes, "has been very little studied, but it exists."[1]

The symptoms of anhedonia were introduced to the realm of psychopathology in 1809 by John Haslam, who characterized a patient suffering from schizophrenia as indifferent to “those objects and pursuits which formerly proved sources of delight and instruction.”.[2] The concept was formally coined by Théodule-Armand Ribot and later used by psychiatrists Paul Eugen Bleuler and Emil Kraepelin to describe a core symptom of schizophrenia.[3] Theorists Sándor Radó and Paul Meehl posited that anhedonia represents an underlying genetic vulnerability to schizophrenia-spectrum disorders.[4] In particular, Rado postulated that schizotypes, or individuals with the schizophrenic phenotype, have two key genetic deficits, one related to the ability to feel pleasure (anhedonia) and one related to proprioception. In 1962 Meehl furthered Rado’s theory through the introduction of the concept of schizotaxia, a genetically-driven neural integrative defect thought to give rise to the personality type of schizotypy.[5] Loren and Jean Chapman further distinguished between two types of anhedonia: physical anhedonia, or a deficit in the ability to experience physical pleasure, and social, or a deficit in the ability to experience interpersonal pleasure.[6]


  1. Varieties of Religious Experience Lecture VI, The Sick Soul, William James 1902
  2. Noll, R. (1959). ‘’The encyclopedia of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders’’ (p. xii). New York : Facts on File.
  3. Der-Avakian, A., & Markou, A. (2011). The neurobiology of anhedonia and other reward-related deficits. ‘’Trends in Neurosciences, 35’’, 68–77.
  4. Horan, W.P., Kring, A.M., & Blanchard, J.J. (2006). Anhedonia in Schizophrenia: A Review of Assessment Strategies. ‘’Schizophrenia Bulletin, 32’’, 259–273.
  5. Meehl, P.E. (1989). Schizotaxia revisited. ‘’Archives in General Psychiatry, 46’’, 935-944.
  6. Kontaxakis, V., Kollias, C., Margariti, M., Stamouli, S., Petridou, E., & Christodoulou, G.N. (2006). Physical anhedonia in the acute phase of schizophrenia. ‘’Annals of General Psychiatry, 5’’, 1-6.

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