The Brain’s Pleasure System
By Sharon Scott, LPC, LMFT – Counselor’s Corner
There is a growing phenomenon among youth (and some adults as well) of anhedonia. Anhedonia is the reduced ability to experience pleasure.
Stress and technology are stimulating our brains to a state of overload. As a result, ordinary, simple things no longer give enjoyment. Over time, more stimulation is needed to impact the pleasure system. I have children in my counseling practice that are moody, irritable and even hostile when parents make them shut down their video games or computer page. Life feels boring without their constant need for stimulation.
Youth who suffer with anhedonia smile weakly, don’t laugh at jokes and don’t express appropriate emotions—they often feel blah.
So what’s a parent to do? Help your children seek many forms of pleasure and not get “locked in” to just one that they spend hours and hours on. When your child is planning to have friends over, plan ahead of time various activities they can do—rather than just play ideo games. Notice the ordinary things in life and call your children’s attention to it (how the dog’s fur feels as soft as velvet; the shapes of the clouds; beautiful trees or flowers while driving, etc.). Avoid yourself or your children becoming “adrenaline junkie.” Slow down and pace yourself. Sit on the porch. Have long, lazy conversations rather than the hurried following of the “to do” list. Make time for relaxation.
Copyright © 2012, Sharon Scott. No reproduction without written permission from author.
PS See my other column, SmileNotes about Child Character Development.
The guide for parents/educators on how to peer-proof children and teens is Peer Pressure Reversal: An Adult Guide to Developing a Responsible Child, 2nd Ed.
Her popular book for teens, How to Say No and Keep Your Friends, 2nd Ed., empowers kids to stand out,not just fit in!
A follow-up book for teens, When to Say Yes! And Make More Friends, shows adolescents how to select and meet quality friends and, in general, feel good for doing and being good.
Sharon also has a charming series of five books for elementary-age children each teaching an important living skill and "co-authored" with her savvy cocker spaniel Nicholas who makes the learning fun.Their book on managing elementary-age peer pressure is titled Too Smart for Trouble.