- Cherophobia is an innate fear of happiness.
- Cherophobia is not yet listed in DSM, the official manual used to diagnose mental health disorders and conditions .
- It is often regarded as a form of anxiety.
- It can be overcome through various types of therapy and exposure
Cherophobia is a phobia of being happy. A phobia is actually an irrational fear. It is a fear that does not make logical sense. This definition is extended to mean fear of even being a part of activities that lead to happiness.
Cherophobia comes from the Greek word ‘chairo’ which means ‘to rejoice’. Hence, the literal translation becomes a fear of happiness.
A lot of other phobias are listed in the DSM, which is the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, the fifth edition of which is currently in use. Phobias such as agoraphobia, (fear of being in a situation that leads to helplessness) are listed in the DSM.
Cherophobia is currently not listed in the DSM V. However, it is still being widely discussed by experts and psychiatrists. It is slowly being acknowledged as a valid condition that impacts people’s lives.
Read on to understand the meaning of Cherophobia, how it affects people, the causes, and ways to deal with it.
What Is Cherophobia
Cherophobia is the fear of happiness. It is the fear of participating in activities that may make a person rejoice or feel happy. It is influenced by cultural factors, cognitive systems, memory, and other mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
Cherophobia, or the aversion to happiness is not only a modern condition. It has merely been assigned a name in modern times. There are cases and situations over the years where people experience this aversion to feeling joy or happiness.
This section will highlight certain questions about it. This includes the meaning, why it is important and cultural factors that influence it, etc.
After this background information, it will become simpler for you to understand this aversion or fear.
The first part of understanding cherophobia is understanding the meaning of phobia or irrational fear.
We are all scared of certain things; for example darkness or fear of large animals. These can also be logical fears based on past experiences.
Some fears, however, are irrational. This means that there is no apparent or clear logic to it. For example, fear of butterflies.
A lot of people who have a phobia of butterflies will also say that it is not logical; a butterfly cannot harm a human.
However, the fear is present regardless. The fear is also very strongly present. Even the thought or picture of the object of fear might make the person feel scared or afraid. It may even lead to anxiety or a feeling of panic in some people.
Cherophobia is also a fear. It is not that the person experiencing it does not want to be happy.
It just means that they are scared of actually feeling happy. They may also realize that happiness is a positive emotion, but they still cannot control their fear of it.
Fear of happiness – Meaning in Detail
Now that we know what a phobia is, let us explore what cherophobia particularly mean.
Fear of happiness may stem from multiple things, but its present experience in people is mostly similar.
It means that they may fear feeling happy. They may understand its importance, they may even really internally need it, but their mind and body is not able to handle feeling happy.
This leads to associating happiness with a negative meaning. They may fear that either they are being too happy, and things will come crashing down.
This fear of happiness may also make a person feel uncomfortable in happy environments.
Some experts even say that cherophobia is more an aversion to happiness than fear of happiness. This means that people may even dislike feeling happy. This may sound strange to others, but it is possible to feel this way.
A dislike of happiness means that people may run away from situations that trigger positive or happy feelings. They may even actively avoid things or events like parties, celebrations or social gatherings.
In some deeper significance, this fear may even be so intense that the person resists falling in love or being in a happy relationship.
This may panic them and they may even intentionally end such relationships out of fear of happiness.
Cultural factors of Cherophobia
Cultural factors have an influence on cherophobia. Some cultures place a very big significance on being happy. People from different cultures even hold different beliefs about happiness.
There are even international lists and publications called World Happiness Reports which report the happiness index of various countries. This is because people and experts believe happiness is essential to human life.
However, some other cultures place more importance on things like duty, sacrifice, discipline, or even success. In these cultures, sacrificing happiness for success is not uncommon; in fact, it is more logical.
Therefore, for people from these cultures, fear or aversion to happiness is not that important. It may actually even go unnoticed because their daily life is not concerned with happiness at all.
Western countries remind their people that their ultimate goal should be happiness. They even give this message through other life events like marriage (which should be a ‘happy’ marriage).
In this type of culture, shying away from happiness becomes a cause for concern. The age at which people express these symptoms are taken into consideration.
For example, a fear of happiness in adults and young adults is considered very concerning.
In some other cultures, the older a person gets, the less happiness is expected from that person. These cultures pay more attention to duty. Here, the older you get, the more you are supposed to focus on your duty over your happiness.
There is also research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, where Americans predicted their lifespan to have a continuous bout of happiness.
Interestingly, the Chinese participants expected happiness to come in waves and go.
This shows that there is a strong influence of culture on happiness, or more importantly, people’s perception of happiness.
Fear of happiness – Importance of understanding
Now that we have understood the basic premise of cherophobia, let us understand why it is important to be aware of this.
Even though it is an irrational aversion, it is also a form of anxiety that so many people experience. It is often disregarded as ‘not a serious condition’ or not a valid phobia. However, for the people experiencing it, the effects are definitely valid.
The diagnostic and statistical manual, DSM, is a comprehensive manual of mental disorders. It covers all major phobias and mental health conditions that psychiatrists or psychologists need to be aware of.
However, because it does not list cherophobia, it often goes unnoticed even by professionals. This leads to people, even those seeking help, feeling confused by their own behavior.
It is important for others to be aware of this aversion because it explains a lot of self-destructive or counterproductive behavior shown by their loved ones.
It explains why someone might be against things that are considered universally positive.
For people that live with cherophobia, who have the belief that happiness is bad, more awareness helps them question their fear.
This leads to more exposure and eventually a different understanding of happiness as well.
Cherophobia can often be traced back to past trauma, or instances that led to this aversion for happiness. The causes for cherophobia also range from cognitive to experience-based.
Before we explain each one in detail, it is also important to note that sometimes, one may not find the exact cause for this fear called cherophobia. This is because it could be the result of multiple beliefs and experiences together.
Since it is also not listed in the DSM, it is difficult to diagnose someone with cherophobia specifically. It might even be presented with other forms of anxiety, personality traits or even a low phase in life.
However, the following are some of the most prominent causes found.
1. Cognitive beliefs
Cherophobia could result from negative beliefs that a person has with regards to his or her life. These negative beliefs make an individual scared of happiness even if they truly want or desire it.
Negative beliefs include an internal assumption that something good will also lead to something bad. Hence, they are scared of feeling happy, because they have the negative belief that eventually, it will not end well.
Cognitive means the thinking function. Hence, it is their thoughts that make them afraid, not any logical reasoning.
They can also believe that happiness is just temporary; hence even if they are happy, they don’t feel convinced that it will last.
Lastly, beliefs could also sometimes be a deep-rooted hatred. They could negatively believe that happiness is not meant for them. They may intentionally avoid people and activities that give them pleasure.
While introversion is not a cause for cherophobia directly, introverts are more likely to experience a fear of happiness. This does not mean all introverts have cherophobia or that extroverts don’t experience it at all.
It merely means that introverts have more likelihood because they prefer staying alone, and avoid over stimulating activities. They even require less stimulation or energy to function.
Hence, the things that people with cherophobia do to avoid happiness, introverts already do because of their personality.
People who are perfectionists tend to place great importance on productivity. It is even possible that productivity becomes more important for them than pleasurable activities.
In these cases, they may even have the belief that having fun is wasting time.
Sometimes, it leads to unhealthy beliefs that if they have fun, they are ruining their precious time or projects that actually require their attention.
They may even feel like trying to be happy is something that people do when they don’t care about their work.
Thus, they are scared of happiness, because they believe it will distract them from their more important goals. It must be noted, however, that not all perfectionists have cherophobia.
Depression in itself is a mental health condition that is experienced by thousands of people all over the world. It is listed in the DSM and is a leading cause of concern for psychiatrists, therapists, and even mental health advocates.
Depression leads to negative thoughts, feeling low, and a lack of hope and happiness. Depression affects a person’s thoughts, feelings as well as actions. Hence, it is even treated medically and through counseling.
One of the ways depression is presented in adults is the symptom of social withdrawal.
People with depression tend to feel and think that no matter what social activity brings them happiness, they will eventually go back to being unhappy.
While it is not proven that depression is the cause of cherophobia, one can see the link between them. It could either be a cause or possibly a symptom or an effect. Either way, there is a strong link between the two.
This is also why, research published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, explores the link between these thoughts and actual fear of happiness. This research was conducted by scientists from New Zealand and England.
They used a scale called the “Fear of Happiness Scale” to understand whether participants really believed that happiness was just a precursor to something bad happening later on.
The results did suggest that people avoided feeling happy, to avoid feeling bad later.
It is proven that people remember negative experiences more strongly than positive ones. This is because negative experiences and thoughts have a deeper effect on a person’s life.
For those people who have had many experiences where their happiness was immediately followed by a bad time; or when their happiness was cut short by a negative event, they may have developed a fear of happiness.
Their mind is trained to think that every time they were happy, it led to something bad. While logically it may not be true, and we all know that rationally, for people with bad memories it is difficult to let the fear go.
Cheriphobia, for these people, maybe based on their memories. It is a strong link and often takes a lot of effort to undo.
Most often, conditions that are based on fear, are categorised as some forms of anxiety or anxiety disorder in the DSM. The DSM then lists all the signs that experts can watch out for before advising any treatment.
Cherophobia however does not have any physical or obvious symptoms, the way several other mental health conditions do.
Therefore, people and their well-wishers have to pay attention to other signs and symbols which point towards cherophobia.
They are categorised as the following.
1. Cognitive signs
Just like there are cognitive causes for cherophobia, there are also cognitive signs one can look out for. Cognitive signs here refer to the beliefs and thoughts systems that lead to unhealthy behavior.
For example, cognitive signs of anxiety include assuming the worst out of regular situations, obsessive thoughts, irrational fears and even feeling numb or thoughtless.
Cognitive signs of cherophobia include major negative beliefs that harm the individual’s growth and experiences.
These beliefs are not only negative but also so deeply rooted that it may be difficult to identify them.
For example, believing that happiness is always followed by negative events or believing that wanting happiness makes them a bad person. These are the cognitive signs that stop a person from seeking happiness.
Another cognitive example is a fear of happiness because the person believes their happiness can make other people unhappy. This isn’t healthy, and this worry actually makes some people scared of happiness.
2. Behavioural signs
A behavioral sign of cherophobia has been repeatedly mentioned throughout this article, i.e. avoiding social events.
Social events are mainly regarded as a positive gathering of people, like friends or family or even work colleagues. If a person is scared of happiness, he or she may avoid such gatherings, so that they can avoid the feelings associated with them.
This avoidance not only costs them a healthy social life, but also forces them to stay alone.
They may start preferring staying home all the time, which can lead to feelings of isolation. If a person feels intentionally lonely, it is a sign that something is going on.
That something could be a deep-rooted fear of happiness, or a strong aversion to positive feelings like joy, pleasure, delight, or even surprise.
3. Physiological Symptoms of Anxiety
However, there are also some outward symptoms that one can look out for when diagnosing cherophobia. They include physiological symptoms of anxiety, as well as the possibility of panic attacks.
They are as follows.
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Dry mouth
- Trembling or chills
- Hot flashes
- Ringing in ears
- Raised blood pressure
These are more symptoms of general anxiety, however, people with phobias do usually experience them. This is because cherophobia can bring on anxiety or panic attacks when the person is confronted with an obviously cheerful stimulus.
Panic attacks are even common if a person with cherophobia is thinking about happiness or what they expect will follow after happiness.
During a panic attack, a person may feel numerous other psychological symptoms as well. However it is difficult to exactly pinpoint whether it is only because of cherophobia or there are other reasons for it, too.
These psychological symptoms include fear of loss, fear of harm, feeling helpless, feeling withdrawn from others, self-blame, or even feeling disconnected from others.
Cherophobia VS Other Similar Conditions
Cherophobia, because it is not listed as a specific condition and is often regarded as a form of anxiety, can easily be confused with other conditions.
While these other conditions are also fear-based, there are certain differences between them and cherophobia. In this section, we will look at two other phobias which are often confused with cherophobia in the media.
Cherophobia vs Philophobia
Philophobia is a fear of falling in love. This is also not listed in the DSM and is often regarded as a form of anxiety.
The negative effect of philophobia is that it makes the person feel overwhelmed even with the idea of love.
While some people confuse it with cherophobia, it is clear that they are not entirely the same. Cherophobia restricts a person from feeling happiness because they are scared of it or scared of what will come after.
Philophobia restricts a person from falling in love because it makes them feel overwhelmed. They feel sure that they wouldn’t be able to handle it, and hence might run away from relationships before they get serious.
People with cherophobia may be able to fall in love without too much fear about it. Their fear would be regarding feeling happy in the relationship.
People with philophobia may be fully able to feel happiness without any fear. It is merely their romantic relationships that would be impacted because of their fear of falling in love.
However, it must be noted that philophobia and cherophobia share multiple similarities in terms of causes and symptoms of the fear.
Cherophobia vs Hedonophobia
Hedonophobia is very easily confused with cherophobia. Hedonophobia means a fear of experiencing pleasure. The two are very similar in sound and implications, but they have slightly different meanings.
People with hedonophobia are not afraid of the feeling of happiness. They are more scared of activities that bring happiness.
It is also a situation where a person isn’t able to actually feel the pleasure that comes from pleasurable activities.
Cherophobia is a fear of feeling happy. They avoid pleasurable activities to avoid the feeling of happiness that they bring.
Simply, one is a fear of feeling happy; the other is fear of being involved in activities that lead to happiness.
Even though the DSM has not specified any particular tests or scales that can confirm cherophobia, some experts in the field have come up with certain tests and scales themselves.
Following are detailed explanations of them.
1. Fear of Happiness Scale (2013)
In 2013, Joshanloo developed a scale called the Fear of Happiness scale. His premise was to understand whether people really believed feeling happy may eventually just result in negative consequences.
It was a five-question scale, (questions are also called items) and the participant could choose their answer ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.
There were totally seven options to choose from in this range, and the total points were between 5-25.
Hence, participants would only have to read each question, and they could select how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement.
The statements included questions regarding the joy, their beliefs about happiness, how they experience happiness, and what they believe will happen if they feel happy.
The higher the score on this scale, the more was their fear of happiness.
2. Fear of Happiness Scale (2012)
In the year 2012, Gilbert had introduced his scale of happiness, also called the Fear of Happiness Scale.
This scale included nine questions. The questions were statements regarding feelings of happiness and how they feel about experiencing happiness.
The participants would read each statement and answer whether that statement described them and their feelings or not. The answers could range from 0-4, with 0 being ‘not like them at all’ and 4 being ‘extremely like them’.
Their score could range from 0-20, and the higher the score, the more significant was their fear of happiness.
How To Treat Cherophobia
People who live with cherophobia often go through years of their lives without realizing what cherophobia even means or whether they have it. Often, cherophobia is also disregarded as a form or anxiety or side effect of depression.
However, an increasing number of mental health professionals and individuals who have cherophobia are looking for ways to deal with cherophobia.
Following are some ways to treat or overcome cherophobia.
1. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy used by many professionals to overcome anxiety. CBT is also used in the treatment of depression, negative thoughts, and patterns of thoughts that impact behavior and mood.
CBT is used to identify the negative thought patterns that people with cherophobia manifest. Once identified, the professional can guide the individual towards a more healthy or logical thought pattern.
These include sessions with a professional therapist, who first breaks down the irrational or negative thoughts and then re-word them for the individual.
For example, thinking ‘I am sure that being happy will only lead to being sad’ is clearly not working for the person. The therapist may suggest ‘I can feel something right now that doesn’t have to influence how I feel tomorrow.”
Eventually, more and more healthy patterns of thought are established. The person is eventually able to manage their fears by working through the newer patterns of thought.
2. Exposure therapy
We often hear that the best way to overcome your fear is to face it. Exposure therapy follows a similar principle. The goal is to slowly expose yourself to the object of fear, till you eventually feel less scared by it.
Similar to CBT, exposure therapy is mainly used in the treatment of phobias and anxiety. The person is slowly first shown pictures of what he or she is afraid of, then shown the object from a distance, then from closer, and so on.
For cherophobia as well, a person who is experiencing social withdrawal or avoiding activities that lead to happiness, this approach is advised. He or she may be asked to take small steps towards happiness.
It could start with going to a family event they would usually avoid. Another step could be doing an activity that brings them happiness, like gaming or shopping.
The goal is to do the activity and allow oneself to experience happiness.
Over time, when bad things immediately don’t follow the feeling of happiness, the individual may feel more comfortable being happy. It is just important to take it slow, and progress in steps.
When the person is finally desensitised, or habituated to the feeling, he or she may realize that their fears were more internal and that they can be overcome. The pursuit of happiness, thus, lies in getting out of your comfort zone.
Hypnotherapy is a complicated form of therapeutic technique that is used by selected professionals.
It involves digging deep into the person’s past to get to the root of the fear. Early memories are often brought to the surface with the help of hypnotherapy.
It is suggested that if the root cause is identified, the memory link to cherophobia is exposed.
Through this, the professional and the client can start working on traumatic memories and reach a healthier state for the future.
Often, we believe that happiness is associated with big life events. We think of happiness as a strong emotion only. However, some cultures, such as Buddhism, treat happiness as something to be enjoyed in the present.
If we start focusing on minor events that bring us happiness during a random, normal day; we realize that it is not so scary after all. This could be happiness from watching something good, eating something delicious, etc.
If we practice mindfulness, which is experiencing each emotion in its present form, we realize that our psychological health is basically a cumulative effect of that. We don’t have to wait for big moments and be scared of them.
Similar to mindfulness, meditation is an approach where a person tries to resolve the stress caused by the phobia through a relaxation technique.
Meditation allows a person to focus his or her breathing and thoughts in one direction.
Through meditation, a person can become so focused on where his or her body is physically present, that the mind does not get distracted with negative thoughts.
Meditation helps keep fear at bay and allows the person to enjoy peace at the moment.
Another way to confront your fears or rework your beliefs is to first understand them clearly, from an objective point of view. Writing down our fears and thoughts helps us identify irrational patterns within them.
This doesn’t cure cherophobia overnight. It is mainly a way for any person to keep track of what they think, so they can be more aware of their mental and emotional health. People with cherophobia can benefit from gaining this awareness.
7. Lifestyle changes
It is often found, through talk and therapy, that a person living with cherophobia designs their lifestyle around it. They avoid big groups, gatherings, and social events. They may even avoid dating and relationships.
Hence, one way to deal with cherophobia is to make lifestyle changes. While this is also what exposure therapy does, lifestyle changes can be on a more wholesome level.
It may take time and patience, but one can slowly start introducing a routine that feels safe for the person to deal with stress.
One can even include more group activities and maintain a balance between social time and alone time.
This allows the person with cherophobia to know their safe spaces and also explore safer ways to feel smaller doses of happiness.
8. Seek support
Understandably, people with cherophobia prefer to avoid group settings. Their fear of actually experiencing happiness overpowers their need to feel part of a group.
However, when trying to overcome cherophobia, support groups can truly help.
Support groups, or seeking the support of others, is helpful for people with any kind of anxiety or social withdrawal. Relating to others’ experiences and having a safe space to share your own can positively influence how you feel about happiness.
It can also highlight certain irrational thoughts you have; especially when you see them reflected in other people’s struggles and fears.
9. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), though not specially designed for cherophobia or any particular type of anxiety, does help manage signs and symptoms.
DBT uses a mix of different techniques to help a person regulate their emotions, live in the moment, and have healthier thought patterns. Previously mentioned techniques like mindfulness and meditation are techniques used in DBT as well.
Another DBT technique is distress tolerance, where you put your body in charge of how you feel. For example, if you feel stressed in a happy environment, you perform another physical activity that diverts your attention.
You may even engage in emotional regulation through exposure therapy. This means that you regulate your emotions by intentionally going through smaller doses of what scares you.
For example, going on a date if your cherophobia makes you scared of relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Since cherophobia is not listed in DSMs and is often confused as a side effect of other mental health conditions, you may have questions about it. Following are some frequently asked questions regarding cherophobia.
Cherophobia is a real condition, and is experienced by many people. It is often found with other forms of anxiety or depression; as it also has overlapping signs and symptoms.
Cherophobia is the fear of happiness. It is also regarded as an aversion to happiness.
The best way to answer this is to go through all the signs and symptoms mentioned above and see whether you experience any. The best way to truly find out is to talk about it with a mental health professional.
Cherophobia is the fear of happiness, not an inability to feel happiness. Through treatment and even before, people with cherophobia can still feel happiness. They are mainly scared of what will happen after.
While cherophobia is not a severe condition, or at least hasn’t been classified yet, it is still a difficult experience. If you know someone who has signs and symptoms of cherophobia, you can support them emotionally.
You can even encourage them to seek help, slowly introduce them to smaller moments of happiness or try to understand where their fear comes from.
Simple communication can also go a long way in the journey to overcome cherophobia.
Cherophobia is a fear of happiness or an aversion to happiness. People with cherophobia thus struggle to feel happy, and may even have a hard time understanding where their aversion comes from.
This article is a reminder that even if cherophobia is just a form of anxiety, it is still real. The silver lining is that there is a way out of it, through some help and small steps towards happiness!
Are you interested to know more about ‘Xenophobia’ then click here?
Rashi Modi is a mental health counsellor by training (with a Masters in Psychology) and a reader by choice. She is a hopeful social entrepreneur, with experience in the social sector, multiple NGOs, and a philanthropic mindset. She likes to write about things that continue to fascinate her, even after eight years of studying psychology - our beautifully complex mind and all the relationships we find ourselves navigating every single day. She is sure that reading a good blog along with a nice cup of coffee is an act of self care; one that she wholeheartedly supports.