Fear of happiness: 7 signs you’re suffering from cherophobia

Being afraid of happiness: it may seem like a paradox and yet it is possible. The fear of being happy, or cherophobia, from the Greek kairos“that which cheers up”, e fobos «fear», is in fact recognized as one psychological condition that some people experience.

That is, it is a irrational fear which leads those who suffer from it to feed a pathological aversion towards all those emotions commonly considered positive.

Although it is not included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the leading resource for diagnosing the mental health disorder cherophobia is today identified by experts as a form of anticipatory anxiety which precludes the attainment of happiness.

«This form of anxiety arises from fear that serenity could somehow make us vulnerable – explains Dr. Valeria Fiorenza Perris, Psychotherapist and Clinical Director of the online psychology service and Benefit Society Unobravo. – Behind this phobia there is, in fact, the belief that the happiness is a volatile and passing state and that at a joyous moment they must necessarily follow misfortunes, traumas or negative events. Sufferers of cherophobia experience profound anguish due to fear of what will happen next having achieved a goal or had a positive experience».

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Being cherophobic doesn’t mean being depressed

We often tend to believe that being cherophobic is equivalent to feeling depressed. Actually cherophobia is one condition other than depression and in some ways in clear antithesis.

«The cherophobic subject it is precisely to suffer and to be unhappy that he is afraid – explains the psychotherapist. – Fears that happiness, once achieved, may vanish leaving him alone and unprepared for emptiness and suffering. That’s exactly why practice active avoidance of positive emotions. If, on the one hand, this attitude can help him to prevent any disappointments, on the other, however, it leads him to preclude himself from any opportunity to live a happy life”.

In fact, cherophobia leads to more or less consciously implementing gods behaviors that end up having profound repercussions on social, working and sentimental life, constituting a strong limit to the process of personal growth, development and fulfilment. In other words, being afraid of happiness really ends up severely limiting the possibility of being happy.

Understanding that you have a problem of this type is therefore the first step to get out of it. Where to start? Experts have identified some attitudes common to those suffering from cherophobia.

Here are some signs to look out for…

1. Tendency to avoid opportunities that could lead to positive life changes

«Those who suffer from cherophobia are not necessarily always sad, but they are definitely someone who avoid certain events for fear that these may later turn into a source of unhappiness. – explains Dr. Fiorenza Perris. – a new job, love, friendship or interest is perceived by the cherophobic as a threat to your own status quo and, therefore, how something to avoid».

2. Refusal to take part in fun activities and social occasions

Cherophobia sufferers also tend to avoid meeting with others in social contexts, which represent for him a source of anxiety and stress. «The anguish derives precisely from the fear that these events, in his imagination potentially positive and rewarding – explains the psychotherapist – can unpredictably turn into a difficult moment to manage and therefore imply experiences of unhappiness and suffering that the cherophobic feels unprepared to manage».

3. Guilt

Happiness is then often perceived by the cherophobic as something to feel guilty about and to which, surely, a punishment will follow. «Feeling happy generates deep feelings of guilt in these individuals – the psychotherapist underlines again – as if the very fact of feeling joy or satisfaction paid off a person no longer worthy of esteem or affection».

4. Fear of attracting criticism and negative judgments

Those who are victims of this type of phobia are also convinced that, should they experience a state of happiness, yes it would attract something negative as a consequence. One of the most frequent fears is just that others could express judgments and criticisms or, simply, they could do not rejoice in the positive condition experienced.

5. Tendency to deny or hide one’s achievements

Precisely for these reasons, the cherophobic it also tends to deny or keep hidden one’s happiness even with people who represent an important emotional point of reference.

6. Tendency to self-sabotage

Considering happiness as a kind of threat, the cherophobic tends to engage in defensive behaviors which are manifested, as well as with the avoidance of situations that could generate contentment, even with real ones self-sabotage mechanisms.

7. Negative past experiences

Finally, the experiences of those suffering from cherophobia are often also united past traumatic experiences and that they ended up undermine the sense of optimism, confidence and security towards others and the outside world.

“In many cases cherophobia has its roots in childhood – underlines Dr. Fiorenza Perris. – The fear of being happy is, in fact, often linked to one or more joyful moments experienced as a child which was followed by a traumatic, physical or emotional event, such as a punishment, a disappointment, or even a major loss. This negative experience, in which emotions such as anger, humiliation and pain have overshadowed any positive sensations, has led to the creation a distorted association of the causal relationship between happiness and pain. The cherophobic person therefore deprives himself of any experience that could bring him joy or euphoria motivated by the fear that feeling a peak of happiness could reenact the trauma experienced in the past and cause him suffering again.

How to get out?

“Recognizing that you suffer from this disorder is certainly a good first step – concludes the psychotherapist. – It’s also important comprehend, through a job of self-reflection, the origin and causes of one’s anxieties and worries, so you can deal with them. In this process, it is essential never underestimate the support that emotionally close people can give. In addition to instilling love and security, the partner, friends and family can offer very valuable insights and points of view to better manage and overcome one’s phobias. Since cherophobia is not recognized at a diagnostic level, there is still no real cure or therapy. However, as with any other phobia, psychotherapy can prove extremely effective».

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