Boredom vs. Anhedonia
When we think about boredom in our new alcohol-free life, it’s important to consider if it might be something more. Anhedonia is a very common side effect of removing habitual alcohol use, and may explain why you feel more bored than usual when you’re not drinking.
Anhedonia can best be explained as a general inability to feel pleasure, and is a direct result of that dopamine/hedonic setpoint issue we talked about before. Our pleasure threshold has been artificially increased by regular dopamine spikes from alcohol, so the things that used to bring us pleasure (like going for a walk, talking to a friend, getting a high five) don’t provide enough dopamine to reach that elevated baseline. This results in a general sense of… “blah.”
And that “blah” can easily be mistaken as boredom, but does require different remedies. When we’re bored, we can find an activity to fill our time and feel better pretty instantly. If we’re dealing with anhedonia, even if we fill our time with something, we may not feel like we get anything out of it. This can be an incredibly frustrating experience; if we’re doing all the right things, why don’t we feel better? Even worse, we might not even have any motivation to try. Why is it so hard to get off the couch and go do something fun?
If you’re experiencing these emotions, you’re not alone. And when we understand the brain mechanics behind it, we’re better equipped to treat it in the right way.