What is cherophobia?
Cherophobia is a phobia where a person has an irrational aversion to being happy. The term comes from the Greek word “chero,” which means “to rejoice.” When a person experiences cherophobia, they’re often afraid to participate in activities that many would characterize as fun, or of being happy.
This condition is one that’s not widely researched or defined. Psychiatrists most commonly use criteria in the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose mental health conditions. Currently, the DSM-5 doesn’t list cherophobia as a disorder. However, there are some mental health experts that discuss this phobia and its potential treatments.
Some medical experts classify cherophobia as a form of anxiety disorder. Anxiety is an irrational or heightened sense of fear related to the perceived threat. In the case of cherophobia, the anxiety is related to participation in activities that would be thought to make you happy.
Someone who has cherophobia isn’t necessarily a sad person, but instead is one that avoids activities that could lead to happiness or joy. Examples of symptoms associated with cherophobia could include:
- experiencing anxiety at the thought of going to a joyful social gathering, like a party, concert, or other similar event
- rejecting opportunities that could lead to positive life changes due to fear that something bad will follow
- refusal to participate in activities that most would call fun
Some of the key thoughts a person who experiences cherophobia may express include:
- Being happy will mean something bad will happen to me.
- Happiness makes you a bad or worse person.
- Showing that you’re happy is bad for you or for your friends and family.
- Trying to be happy is a waste of time and effort.
In an article from the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, the authors created a Fear of Happiness Scale. Created to compare fear of happiness across 14 cultures, the scale can also help a person or their doctor to evaluate if they have symptoms of cherophobia. Some statements include:
- I prefer not to be too joyful, because usually joy is followed by sadness.
- Disasters often follow good fortune.
- Excessive joy has some bad consequences.
By rating these statements on a 1 to 7 scale of how much you agree, it may be able to show that you have a fear or misperception of happiness.
Sometimes cherophobia can stem from the belief that if something very good happens to a person, or if their life is going well, that a bad event is destined to happen. As a result, they may fear activities related to happiness because they believe they can ward off something bad from happening. This is often the case when someone has experienced a past physical or emotional traumatic event.
An introvert may be more likely to experience cherophobia. An introvert is a person who typically prefers to do activities alone or with one to two people at a time. They’re often seen as reflective and reserved. They may feel intimidated or uncomfortable in group settings, loud places, and places with a lot of people.
Perfectionists are another personality type that may be associated with cherophobia. Those who are perfectionists may feel happiness is a trait only of lazy or unproductive people. As a result, they may avoid activities that could bring happiness to them because these activities are seen as unproductive.
Because cherophobia hasn’t been largely detailed or studied as its own separate disorder, there aren’t FDA-approved medications or other definitive treatments that a person may pursue to treat the condition.
However, some suggested treatments include:
- cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a therapy that helps a person recognize faulty lines of thinking and identify behaviors that can help them change
- relaxation strategies, such as deep breathing, journaling, or exercising
- exposure to happiness-provoking events as a means to help a person identify that happiness doesn’t have to have adverse effects
Not everyone with an aversion to happiness necessarily needs treatment. Some people feel happier and more secure when they’re avoiding happiness. Unless cherophobia is interfering with their own personal quality of life or ability to maintain a job, they may not require treatment at all.
However, if the symptoms of cherophobia are related to a past trauma, treating an underlying condition may help to treat cherophobia.
Cherophobia often comes when people try to protect themselves, stemming from a past conflict, tragedy, or trauma. If cherophobia is affecting quality of life, seeking treatment with a doctor can often help.
Although it can take time to change the way you think, with continued treatment, you may be able to conquer your fears.