This trait may be indicative of a more serious psychological disorder. We asked a mental health expert to give us the keys to the problem.
Now that summer time has returned and there are more hours of sunshine, a familiar image is being repeated on Spanish streets: crowded terraces. Although it is possible to enjoy them at any time of the year despite the cold, there is no doubt that gatherings with friends are more enjoyable when the weather is nice and spring is here. Close friends, friends of friends, co-workers, casual acquaintances and even first-time acquaintances gather in these almost sacred places where we confide in each other, tell stories from the past or discuss the divine to the human, all accompanied by a soft drink or a cold beer.
But if many are already rushing to write to their own to go to the afterwork, not everyone is able to abandon themselves to sociability so quickly and with so much altruism. Some will still prefer to be alone with their partner, in the privacy of their home, watching a movie or enjoying a home-cooked meal. And others, those who are unlucky in love, will continue to wait forever for that phone call to go for a drink. There are many situations in which we want to go out to meet other people or, on the contrary, take refuge with a special person in an intimate and reserved place; but at the end of the day, are there people who do not tolerate or accept these social gatherings so typical of this time of the year?
“This is not a disorder per se, but a trait, a characteristic, which may be present in different types of disorders or in none of them.
The social anhedonia is defined as the loss of pleasure and interest in social activities, which generates in the person who experiences it a simple indifference, apathy or reticence, even rejection. It is quite common that in a group of friends, when someone forms a couple, a distance is created from the others because he or she ends up spending a good part of the time alone with his or her new boyfriend or girlfriend. This is perfectly normal. What is not normal is that months go by and that person is gone and they don't see each other anymore.
Social anhedonia prevents the person from feeling comfortable in common environments, so they react with indifference or disdain.
After all, when a romantic bond of any kind is forged, one of the most exciting aspects of getting to know the other person is precisely getting in touch with the people with whom they move, with whom they share their time, and who support them in difficult times, i.e. their friends. On the other hand, because it is assumed that if they are good friends, they have a lot in common, including the same values and beliefs, and therefore it is logical that they are compatible. But social anhedonia prevents the person from feeling comfortable in these shared environments, so their response will be disdain or disdain radiated by a continual crossing of arms and a constant refusal to broach or pursue a topic of conversation.
This is not a disorder, but a symptom
This personality or character trait (since it is not a disorder, but may be a symptom of a larger problem) is maladaptive because it is ultimately a consistent denial of the basic principle of socialization, which is essential in any context, no matter how small. The person with social anhedonia has difficulty understanding, expressing and processing emotional stimuli from the environment, rejecting contact and interaction with others.
“The reason may be biographical experiences, learned learning, personality traits, disinterest, or lack of affinity.
“It is not a disorder in itself, but a trait, a characteristic, which can be present in different types of disorders or in none in particular”, explains to this newspaper Rafael San Román, psychologist at the online psychological care platform iFeel. “That is why it is better to detect or identify this trait, rather than to diagnose it, because that would create confusion”, explains Rafael San Román, psychologist at the online psychological care platform iFeel. But even in this case, “it would be desirable to explore it carefully to see its depth, because it can be the cause of certain disorders” . Normally it appears in adolescence, when the person suddenly feels withdrawn and isolated, and has serious difficulties in showing empathy to others. It is not only a series of mental or emotional sensations, but it can also generate physical disorders, such as dizziness, nausea or headaches, especially after being exposed to these social situations.
The RSAS scale
The revised scale ofSocial Anhedonia Scale (SAHS)which can be completed online, was proposed by psychologists Chapman and Raulin in 1978 to measure the level at which a person suffers from the symptoms associated with anhedonia. Some of the items on the scale include:
- I attach very little importance to having close friends.
- When things are going well for my friends, I feel good too.
- When I am alone, I am very annoyed when people call or knock on my door.
- It's fun to sing with other people.
- I am happy and satisfied to learn more and more about the emotional lives of my friends.
- I never had very close friends in high school.
- I am too independent to relate to other people.
- People who try to get to know me better usually give up after a while.
- Making new friends doesn't make up for the energy it takes.
- My relationships with others are not very intense.
A study led by psychologist Kenneth Tan and published in the Journal of Personality in 2011 analyzed the satisfaction of 100 newly married heterosexual couples for two years to measure their level of social anhedonia. Those who scored high, i.e., who rejected all social interaction outside the couple, were significantly less satisfied with their marriage. In addition, they linked this personality trait to patterns of withdrawal and avoidance in their own relationship, because ultimately, not wanting to open up socially also impacts the couple, not only externally, but also within the relationship itself.
The best thing to do is “to listen with empathy and recognize their need not to interact, even if we don't behave or understand it.
One of the reasons may be the difficulty in assimilating the other as a friend, but also as a boyfriend or girlfriend, which leads to an excessive idealization of romantic love, increasing the demands, which are increasingly difficult to satisfy because of this lack of openness to communication. In psychology, every symptom has an explanation, “even if it is very difficult to identify”, explains San Román, “because it helps us to understand the person, to establish a connection with him and to help him”. This explanation can be multifactorial: “biographical experiences, acquired learning, personality traits, disinterest or lack of affinity with the partner's environment”.
What to do about anhedonia or how to negotiate with one's partner if they suffer from it? “Listening with empathy is the first thing to do,” confirms the psychologist. “It is also necessary to recognize her need not to interact, even if we do not behave or understand her, and especially to ask her what would be good for her, what she would need to be more comfortable in social gatherings and share our desire to include her in projects.”
Ultimately, however, the best thing to do would be to consult a psychologist to find out if this is not a much more serious disorder. “Anhedonia is a symptom, it is present in various situations of life and also in various disorders”, concludes San Román. “It is the continuous and profound inability to enjoy things that we used to enjoy. It can occur in a bad situation, in a bereavement or in a depressive state. In other words, it can be present in a pathology or in non-pathological situations.