New Directions in Addressing Motivational Deficits in Schizophrenia and Depression


Being unable to experience pleasure and having difficulty imagining future enjoyment are different problems—and may require different treatments.

Schizophrenia and depression have long been associated with anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure. But recent clinical research suggests that patients with schizophrenia do in fact experience pleasure; they generally enjoy things like spending time with friends or doing well at work or in school. They just often have a hard time imagining and anticipating future enjoyment, and so they are not motivated to do the things that would make them happy.

How could psychiatrists address this motivational deficit? In this Mental Health Minute, Deanna Barch, PhD, discusses some of the emerging data from her research on anhedonia in schizophrenia and depression. She suggests that different treatments may be necessary for these conditions, as they affect motivation and pleasure in different ways. She shares some of her early ideas about what forms these different treatments might take. 

Dr Barch chair and professor of Psychology and Brain Sciences, professor of Radiology, and Gregory B Couch Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis.

How do you address motivational deficits in your patients? Share comments with your colleagues by emailing Comments may be shared online pending review and editing for style.

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