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Reviewed by Beth Pausic, Psy.D.
Written by Our Editorial Team
We all have days when we simply can’t — whether it’s getting to the gym, joining coworkers for after-hours drinks or just leaving the house. Sometimes, you’re just not in the mood… and that’s okay.
It’s normal to experience disinterest in certain things from time to time, but when your hobbies, activities and social life no longer feel interesting or joyful, it could be a sign it’s time to take a closer look.
Sometimes, a loss of interest or pleasure is linked to a temporary setback or external stressors like burnout, or it can point to a more serious mental health issue.
Losing interest in everyday life is a common symptom of an array of mental health disorders, which is why it’s important to tune into these feelings when they occur, especially if they’re ongoing or recurring.
Below, we dive into what might cause a loss of interest, what it feels like and treatment options that’ll get you back on track to reveling in the joys of being alive.
The world is full of wonder — there’s no denying it. Still, sometimes you might find yourself experiencing a loss of interest as if your daily life — including all of the things, people and places you usually engage with and encounter — is lost behind a veil of gray.
During these periods or depressive episodes, the things you ordinarily find joy, satisfaction or curiosity in may seem to dry up and darken.
You may feel less capable of expressing emotion or have less of an appetite for hanging out with friends and loved ones. You might even experience health issues like loss of libido.
In a clinical setting, this reduced ability to experience pleasure is referred to as anhedonia, which can manifest as social and physical anhedonia.
Anhedonia has been associated with many mental disorders, including:
Forms of depression
Substance use disorder
People with physical conditions like chronic pain and Parkinson's Disease may also experience anhedonia.
Anhedonia robs you of joy and delight, which can seriously impact your quality of life and sense of well-being. Without the good feelings associated with doing certain things, you may withdraw from the world, your responsibilities, ambitions, and even many of the things you used to love.
Anhedonia is generally considered a symptom of certain mental disorders rather than a distinct mental disorder itself. You may experience a lack of motivation or diminished interest in certain parts of life if you:
Suffer from major depression (also referred to as clinical depression)
Have another form of depression like premenstrual dysphoric disorder
Are experiencing a mood swing that affects your interest in certain things
Have an anxiety disorder that makes certain activities less enjoyable
Have a substance use disorder, including alcohol abuse
Suffer from Parkinson’s disease or chronic pain (part of somatic symptom disorder)
When a loss of interest develops as a result of depression, it may also accompany other symptoms like:
A low mood
Lack of energy
Feelings of hopelessness
Difficulty focusing, remembering things and making decisions
Look out for these signs of depression, as they could be signals that you need to seek help from a mental health provider.
It’s important to remember that occasionally losing interest in certain things doesn’t mean you're mentally or physically unhealthy.
Here’s a quick test to: Did you enjoy your lazy day on the couch eating handfuls of dry cereal while watching reruns of Parks & Recreation? If so, it’s not anhedonia — just a well-deserved day of R&R.
However, if these days stretch into weeks and you’re deriving no pleasure or satisfaction from your daily life, that’s when it’s time to take action and make some changes.
Six things you can do to overcome a loss of interest are:
Talk to a Mental Health Professional
Try to Maintain a Healthy, Active Lifestyle
Create Goals for What You’d Like to Do
Spend Time with Your Friends and Family
Try Learning a New Skill or Taking up a New Hobby
Focus on Small, Consistent Improvements
The right combination of habit and lifestyle adjustments, in addition to things like therapy and, if necessary, medication, can help you work through your feelings of disinterest and detachment.
If you’re feeling completely uninterested in life, one of the best things you can do is chat with a mental health professional.
A sudden and severe — or persistent — lack of interest in life often signals that you’re experiencing a mental health issue like depression or anxiety. Talking to a mental health provider can help you discover why you’re feeling this way and if it results from a specific mental condition.
We totally get it — the self-help aisle can be a tempting prospect, but talking it out with another person can be highly beneficial if you’re having trouble navigating a sea of anhedonia.
If appropriate, your mental health provider may suggest participating in talk therapy (psychotherapy), to identify negative emotions, thoughts and behavior patterns.
In talk therapy, your mental health provider may suggest changing your daily habits to lower your feelings' impact on your quality of life and will work to equip you with ways to deal with your challenges effectively.
Mental health professionals use various forms of talk therapy to treat anhedonia and other symptoms of depression, but one of the most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT.
CBT involves working with a professional to become more aware of negative thinking, then changing self-defeating thoughts and behavioral patterns. Talk therapy is generally used to treat depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions, but it’s also effective at reducing stress and resolving interpersonal issues.
You can participate in therapy with a local mental health provider or from home using our online therapy.
Our guide to the types of therapy goes into more detail about how psychotherapy can help you to improve your thoughts, feelings and behavior to overcome a loss of interest in life.
When a depressive disorder causes your loss of interest in life, it’s essential to follow your mental health provider’s instructions and, if necessary, use medication.
Good news: medications such as antidepressants can help to lower the severity of symptoms of depression, including anhedonia, and are especially handy if you have severe symptoms that don’t get better on their own.
Healthcare providers use several types of medication to treat depression, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These antidepressants work by increasing serotonin activity in your brain — a natural chemical believed to be involved in regulating your moods and feelings.
In some cases, your healthcare provider may suggest using a different type of antidepressant, such as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) or a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA), to treat your symptoms.
One thing to be aware of is that while antidepressants are effective, they can take several weeks to start working. You may notice that your mood, sleep and other symptoms gradually improve after you start treatment.
You can check out our full list of antidepressants for more detail about how these medications work and the effects you can expect if you’re prescribed one to treat a loss of interest in life caused by depression.
When everything feels positively meh, exercising may feel like a luxury. But research shows that people who exercise frequently are the least likely to be affected by a loss of interest in daily life.
Thankfully, even small amounts of physical activity can positively impact your overall health and well-being – making it one of the more accessible coping skills for nurturing your mental health.
According to the NIMH, just 30 minutes of walking per day can help boost your mood, thanks to the release of neurotransmitters — natural chemicals that can impact your mood — and proteins called neurotrophic factors, which can improve your brain function.
Other research has found that physically active people are less likely to experience anhedonia.
If possible, take a walk somewhere green, like a local park, hiking trail or even a residential neighborhood with trees, for added physiological and psychological benefits.
It’s vision board time. Okay, the vision board is optional — but the intention is where it’s really at (bullet journals are great, too).
Making plans and creating goals for the future — for the next few weeks, months or years — can be an effective tool for combatting feelings of disinterest. That’s because they’re inherently optimistic and forward-thinking.
Even seemingly small goals like, “I want to go for a walk three times a week” or, “I want to get a coffee with a friend every other week” can give you something tangible to work toward to help build positive rituals.
Bigger picture goals — like professional ambitions or that road trip to the Grand Canyon you’ve always wanted to take — contain any number of smaller goals (researching and planning the best driving route, learning a new skill, etc.), which can give you a sense of satisfying accomplishment.
Known as proactive coping, this stress-management strategy provides a dose of motivation toward personal growth.
If you want to give it a whirl, try setting five to 10 personal goals, both small and large, then using them as a source of inspiration to take action and regain your interest in life.
A word of warning: along the way, you may have to force yourself to do the work and even find yourself wanting to flake. It happens.
If possible, make plans and set goals that involve other people who know what you’re going through and will help you follow through.
Most importantly, don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a hard time or lose the thread every now and again. Just try your best to acknowledge you’ve gone off course, then return to your goal with a renewed sense of determination and curiosity to find out where it will take you.
When you feel less interested in your life, it’s easy to withdraw from your relationships and spend more time alone. If you have clinical depression, this self-imposed isolation could end up making your symptoms more severe.
Research shows a link between social isolation and sleep difficulties, depression, impaired executive function and cognitive decline.
Even if you don’t feel motivated to socialize, try to spend time with close friends and family members regularly.
Not only can spending time with others help you feel better, but it also allows you to confide about how you’re feeling with the people you trust.
Suppose your loss of interest turns out to be a symptom of clinical depression, anxiety or another form of mental illness. In that case, this support network can help you access professional care and make real progress toward recovery.
Even on days where you’re not planning to see loved ones, make an effort to visit a neighborhood coffee shop or run an errand.
Smile at the mailman, ask someone if you can pet their dog, make a little small talk.
These so-called ‘weak ties’ that crop up in our daily life are extremely important to our feelings of well-being.
We’ve all been in a rut before — doing the same things day in and day out, coasting through life rather than buzzing with possibility and excitement. If this resonates, there’s a chance some of your feelings of disinterest could be linked to good ‘ol-fashioned boredom.
And it’s not entirely your fault: adulting tends to require a lot of consistency.
But it doesn’t demand we leave behind new experiences altogether. If you’ve been feeling a loss of interest, why not shake things up by learning a new skill or taking up a new hobby.
A good way to start is by asking around to see what your friends have been up to outside of work. If they’re open to it, ask if you can tag along.
Look into classes at community centers in your area and join a chess club, buy some craft supplies or try learning a new language.
Cultivating a beginner mindset by doing something you’re actually a beginner at can help you bring fresh eyes to other areas of your life. Plus, it can inject some much-needed playfulness and experimentation into your daily routine.
If you’re really struggling with anhedonia and are feeling hopeless, don’t forget that it’s rare to go from losing interest in everything to suddenly enjoying life overnight.
Even with proactive effort and care, it’s natural to have moments where you simply want to throw in the towel and give up (and give in to your feelings of detachment). When this happens, focus on taking small steps.
This could mean something as simple as setting aside a few minutes a day to jot down how you felt today and if anything gave you a spark of joy, or simply observing that the world felt particularly devoid of color today.
If you’re doing therapy, it could mean focusing on a single session at a time and trying to utilize your new skills daily.
Progress toward feeling better is rarely rapid, but it does happen. Focus on making small, real improvements daily and, over the long term, you’ll hopefully notice your life become richer and more enjoyable once again.
One of the stickiest traps of feeling a lack of interest in life is that it can be hard to zoom out and see how stuck you really are. But, just the fact that you’re here — in this corner of the internet, reading this article — means you’re onto something.
It means you’ve taken the first step to cultivating a healthier mindset and finding your way back to a joyful, more engaged life. Here are a few others:
Speak to a professional + explore therapy. You don’t have to feel this way forever. Feelings of detachment and anhedonia may be symptoms of highly treatable mental health disorders, so be sure to chat with your doctor about what you’ve been feeling.
Cultivate healthy routines + welcome something new. Whether it’s seeing friends, going for a walk, or trying something brand new, being intentional with your daily life can positively shift your perspective.
Set a goal + take it one day at a time. Set goals, create plans, and don’t be afraid to start small. Be kind to yourself if you go off course — just keep moving forward one step at a time.
Experiencing a lack of interest in life can be isolating, sad and even a little scary. You might wonder if you’ll ever find pleasure in the things you once loved or if this is just the new you.
But before you give up, remember that in this very moment, you’re well on your way toward rekindling the passion, happiness, and curiosity we all deserve to feel.
Start your mental wellness journey today.