Are you afraid of happiness?

You heard right– are you afraid of being happy?

Do you tend to avoid situations that would make you happy because you either think it will make you soft, unproductive, or be the precursor to something bad?

If that sounds like you, you might have cherophobia.

Photo Credit: Asdrubal luna on Unsplash

Men are not afraid of things, but of how they view them.

– Epictetus

What is Cherophobia?

According to several recent studies, including a study published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, as odd as it may sound, it’s possible to be afraid of happiness.

That fear of happiness has been deemed cherophobia.

The root “chero” comes from the Greek word of the same spelling and it means “to rejoice.” Chero was used to describe the condition of people with an aversion to partaking in activities that could make them happy or joyful.

While not yet very well defined, several mental health experts have identified the phobia as a real mental health challenge that needs to be taken seriously.

The general belief is that some form of past trauma or experience most likely occurring just after finding some semblance of happiness is the root cause of cherophobia, conditioning the sufferer to believe that happiness inevitably brings bad things with it.

In other words, you become fearful that if something makes you happy, something bad will happen as a result, swiftly canceling that happiness out and causing you great pain, so you avoid such situations to protect yourself from the possibility of future suffering.

Could you suffer from Cherophobia?

Okay, clearly, the idea of labeling a fear of happiness as a phobia sounds a bit dramatic. I get it and it was my first inclination too.

However, what you call it doesn’t matter.

If you suffer from a genuine aversion to anything that can bring you happiness, you’re living a terribly despondent life. You deserve better and need to make a change.

But how do you know if you’re suffering from cherophobia?

Researchers have created what they call the “fear of happiness scale” and it involves several questions to ask yourself. Questions include:

  • Are you afraid to let yourself become too happy?
  • Do you believe that you don’t deserve to be happy?
  • When you’re happy do you believe that something bad is going to happen next?

If your answer to any of these questions is a resounding yes, that’s a pretty good indication you might suffer from cherophobia.

As an addition to this, it’s useful to know that there are two personality traits which are most likely to attract a fear of happiness:

1. Introversion

Because cherophobia is strongly associated with avoiding potentially happy and fun situations, introversion is an ideal environment for allowing it to flourish.

That in no way means that any large number of introverts have cherophobia, simply that someone who might have experienced a past traumatic event or some other trigger event which could cause cherophobia to develop is more likely to develop the phobia because their behavior supports its development.

2. Perfectionism

Quite different is the perfectionist, who has also been shown to be more susceptible to cherophobia. This is likely because a perfectionist might become conditioned to believe that being happy means you’re settling or being lazy, therefore sees happiness a threat which can keep them from maintaining their edge.

What to do about itReasons to keep a journal - thoughts matter

Ultimately, every iteration of cherophobia is the same: you need to change how you think.

You need to work hard to uncover the root of the aversion. Think of it as a thorn in your side. You don’t know what’s causing you pain but you know you need to find the source, otherwise all the painkillers in the world won’t help. However, once you find the cause, the pain goes with it.

Because cherophobia has a lot in common with anxiety, relaxation strategies such as meditation and journaling can help make it easier to decondition the behavior.

In addition, CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy is incredibly useful for help you find mental blocks and unconscious beliefs that could be causing the phobia in the first place.

And, lastly, if you can manage it, small bouts of regular exposure to the kinds of activities you tend to be most aversive to can help gradually shift the behavior by teaching your mind there isn’t a connection between happiness and pain.