Antonym for 'anhedonia'
November 1, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

If "anhedonia" is an inability to get pleasure from pleasurable experiences, is there a word or concept that describes an inability (or a diminished capacity) to be saddened by experiences usually considered "sad"?

Trying to stay away from things that also imply, like, 'mania'. In the same way that 'anhedonia' maintains its own separate identity from 'depression', I'd like the word or concept I'm asking for to be separate from mania.

Examples from literature or other media might also be helpful. Many thanks.
posted by cadastral to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The first word that comes to mind is "apathy" but I know that's not the exact meaning of the word.

I'd rather be trapped with the anhedonist ... the second type of person sounds like they fit the definition of a psychopath, and I don't want to risk having them decide to kill me and use my skin for a handbag.
posted by tastybrains at 9:28 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can ask Michael Morgan from Motion Picture for you, if you want, as I work with him. (Their first album is called Anhedonia)
posted by Grither at 9:35 AM on November 1, 2007

["bonus" chatfilter question at the end removed]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:37 AM on November 1, 2007

Oh, and I would rather be stuck with the opposite of an anhedonist. Too depressing. Though there would be a lot of comic relief to be found in an anhedonist, but that would get old pretty quickly, I'd think.
posted by Grither at 9:39 AM on November 1, 2007

Ooops, nevermind that last comment.
posted by Grither at 9:39 AM on November 1, 2007

posted by bluejayk at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2007

You could use hedonia, since that an- part is just a privative prefix, as in aerobic/anaerobic, theist/atheist, etc. (Sure, it’s not technically a “real word”, but that’s only because no one has started using it yet.)
posted by tepidmonkey at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2007

posted by Wilder at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

The problem with hedonia is in that anhedonia is put together a bit differently from the other pairings you listed... (maybe a linguist could tell us exactly how).

"An + Hedonia" = roughly "no + pleasure"... so it'd follow that "hedonia" would be... a state of pleasure. See the adjective "hedonic".

Also: to "stoic" and "apathy"... both good, and both capture an inability to be sad. But both also have wrapped up in them sort of a muted response to happiness as well. In that "anhedonia" still allows for one to be sad, I'd like the concept I'm searching for to still allow for one to be happy. But good nonetheless, and many thanks.
posted by cadastral at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2007

Well, a flat affect covers all emotions, not just sadness, but "stoic", as suggested above, seems the closest match.
posted by maudlin at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2007

For a colloquial answer, I would suggest "cold," or "anesthetized." Both signify the flatness of affect and inability to feel sadness (and other negative emotions).
posted by googly at 10:24 AM on November 1, 2007


posted by klangklangston at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hyperthymia is a personality type or temperament characterised by happiness and is a psychological trait rather that a psychological state.
posted by Sparx at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2007

Blunted affect?
posted by roofus at 10:56 AM on November 1, 2007

Maybe some form of masochism.
posted by inconsequentialist at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2007

I'm with Wilder. I think that this is a sociopathic or psychotic state.
posted by rachelpapers at 12:40 PM on November 1, 2007

Sadness in the sense I think you want ('not feeling happy' as opposed to 'grief,' for which there are a number of words) is dysthymia in Ancient Greek, so you could go with adysthymia. (The -n- in an- is only used before vowels and h.)
posted by languagehat at 12:44 PM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hasten to add that adysthymia isn't an actual word; I presume you realize that you're going to have to invent a word for this abstruse concept.
posted by languagehat at 12:46 PM on November 1, 2007

While it doesn't fit the bill perfectly, I'd like to throw in "alienation" (inability to feel any sort of empathy) with a literary reference to "The Stranger" by Albert Camus.
posted by sour cream at 1:38 PM on November 1, 2007

In utilitarianism, the antonym of "hedon" (= one unit of pleasure/happiness) is "dolor" (= one unit of pain/sadness). Dolor is from the Latin while hedon is from ancient Greek, so it's a bit off, but it might be another option for a root of a made-up word. (Adoloria or something along those lines.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:25 PM on November 1, 2007

Examples of relentlessly upbeat characters in literature and other media include Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire's Candide and Polyanna — both of whose names have passed into eponym happy-heaven. For musical contributions, see also Mr. Rogers ("Won't You Be My Neighbor?") and Ren & Stimpy ("Happy Happy Joy Joy").
posted by rob511 at 4:03 PM on November 1, 2007

Without wishing to harp on, I should point out that in psychiatric terms the opposite of dysthymia (a recognised term for depressive tendencies) is hyperthymia (layman's description).
posted by Sparx at 2:54 AM on November 2, 2007

would anomie fit here?
posted by Wilder at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2007

No, on preview too vague. I like LH's linguitic patch.
posted by Wilder at 6:40 AM on November 2, 2007

posted by Wilder at 6:23 AM on November 3, 2007

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