Alcoholism & Addiction

Research Suggests Decreased Cravings for Pleasure Leads to Depression

Cravings for pleasure tend to get people into a lot of trouble. Research has found this element of the human body to drive addictions, drug and alcohol use and so much more. Now, a new study has found a link between the decreased cravings for pleasure and major depressive disorder.

According to a piece in Science Daily, these decreased cravings could actually be at the root of a core symptom of major depressive disorder. This finding is in stark contrast to the long-held notion that those suffering from depression lacked the ability to enjoy rewards, rather than the ability to seek them.

The research was led by Vanderbilt psychologists Michael Treadway and David Zald. "This initial study shows that decreased reward processing, which is a core symptom of depression, is specifically related to a reduced willingness to work for a reward," Treadway, a graduate student in psychology, said in Science Daily.

A primary symptom of major depressive disorder is the decreased motivation to seek and experience pleasurable experiences. Also known as anhedonia, this condition is less responsive to many antidepressants and even persists after other symptoms of depression have subsided.

"In the last decade and a half, animal models have found that the neurotransmitter dopamine, long known to be involved in reward processing, is involved in craving or motivation, but not necessarily enjoyment," Treadway said. "To date, research into reward processing in individuals with anhedonia has focused on enjoyment of rewards, rather than assessing the drive to work for them. We think this task is one of the first to do that."

In this study, researchers found that subjects who had reported symptoms consistent with anhedonia were less willing to make choices requiring greater effort in exchange for greater reward. This was especially true when the rewards were uncertain.

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