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Three Mental Illnesses That Involve Difficulty Processing “Reward” Cues

Consider the last time you experience an influx of happiness. Maybe it was something you ate, some good news you received, or something as simple as a hug from someone you love. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain, and it works by being released during pleasurable situations – this could mean food, sex, love, drugs, and more. Dopamine affects many other functions, including one’s memory, focus and attention, cognition, social functioning, and much more. Mental illness has the ability to affect dopamine levels, which can concurrently affect many other areas of life. When dopamine is impacted, a person’s ability to process “rewards” is altered. Medication, psychotherapy, and holistic forms of treatment can all help a person regulate some of the chemicals in their brain, but without treatment, daily life can be quite challenging.

A 2016 study sought to explore three major mental illnesses that are affected by reward processing dysfunction: major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Below we provide a brief breakdown of each, and how they experience this sort of dysfunction:

Major depression: those with this disorder often experience difficulty responding to rewarding situations, but also in acquiring the effort to put towards these types of situations as well.  

Bipolar disorder: several abnormalities occur with this disorder, and for those with mania or hypomania, heightened activation in the brain can make it difficult for individuals to control.

Schizophrenia: previous studies have shown that individuals with this disorder often experience a lack of motivation – specifically, when presented with a series of options, a person is least likely to choose an option that involves extra effort. Dopamine levels can directly impact motivation, which can affect goal-direct activity in one’s daily life.

As emphasized by a 2016 study titled “Dysfunction Reward Processing in Depression”, one of the best ways to treat someone with reward processing dysfunction is to identify exactly which areas of processing they’re having trouble with – for example, pleasure with activities, heightened energy, motivation, etc. Customized treatment means that each patient is receiving care that is meant for them – leading them to improved recovery outcomes.

Trauma changes the way we interpret reward. Through specialized care and treatment, The Guest House Ocala helps heal the broken relationships in self and to others caused by damaging trauma. Your chance to find all of life’s rewards starts now. Call us today for information on our programs: 855-483-7800