Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” lyrics sound simple enough, but anyone who’s ever experienced cherophobia knows that the road to happiness can be a lot more complicated than that. In fact, for some, the mere thought of joy can feel entirely out of reach. So, what exactly is cherophobia? Despite your unfamiliarity with the term, the condition itself is relatively straightforward. Cherophobia is when a person has an irrational fear of being happy and (accordingly) has an aversion to participating in fun activities.
Now, some of you may be thinking, Why would anyone be afraid of being happy? Isn’t that one of the main objectives in everyone’s life — to find happiness? While it’s true that the definition of cherophobia may leave many of you scratching your heads, let’s not forget that this is a phobia we’re talking about, which means logic and reason go out the window. Phobias are irrational fears by nature, but that doesn’t make them any less valid to the people experiencing them. And if you’re someone who purposefully seeks to avoid happiness, the world can most likely feel like a very scary and lonely place.
But just like with anything else, the more we know about cherophobia, the better prepared we’ll be in recognizing the symptoms in both ourselves and in others. In turn, that knowledge will hopefully lead to a much bigger dialogue regarding mental health and how we can go about helping each other.
The term cherophobia originates from the Greek term “chairo,” which means “to rejoice.” And since phobia means fear, put the two terms together and you’ve got a fear of rejoicing. Despite how scary the concept sounds, though, cherophobia still isn’t recognized as a clinical disorder under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). But if you feel like this condition describes you, take heart in knowing that you are not alone.
Symptoms Of Cherophobia (aka Do I Have Cherophobia?)
Psychologist Jessica Swainston, Ph.D., discusses the concept of cherophobia in a 2020 article on PositivePsychology.com, noting that fear-based conditions are normally classified as anxiety disorders in the DSM-5, with the symptoms falling into two categories.
- Believing that the feeling of being happy makes you a bad person
- Believing that happiness will ultimately lead to something bad happening down the line
- Believing that you should not show feelings of joy in case it causes others to be upset
- Avoidance of fun social gatherings
- Steering clear of relationships or life opportunities that could result in happiness and success
How to Overcome Cherophobia
While there aren’t any FDA-approved medications to take for cherophobia, Swainston does recommend a few helpful treatments.
- Exposure Therapy: This is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that pushes you to deliberately confront your fears head-on rather than avoid them. You do this through direct and repeated exposure to said fear. So, in the case of cherophobia, this would mean gradually exposing yourself to joyful situations.
- Relaxation Techniques: This could be in the form of meditation, yoga, and other breathing exercises.
- Journaling: Sometimes, putting your fears and anxieties down on paper can prove to be very therapeutic.
- Practice Being Present: This allows you to take in joyous moments without complicating your happiness with thoughts of the past or future. Being present is one of the ways we can train ourselves to fully accept our joy and ward off feelings of guilt. You can practice by adding affirmations to your daily routine, like “I am in the perfect place at the perfect time,” or “I allow myself to feel my feelings at this moment.”
- Hypnotherapy: This may not work for everyone, but it could definitely be worth a try.
The bottom line is that cherophobia may not be something widely discussed, but it is certainly real. So, no matter what, take heart in knowing that you are not alone.
What is the difference between cherophobia and philophobia?
Cherophobia is the fear of happiness, but philophobia is when you’re afraid of falling in love. It’s common to have some level of anxiety when it comes to love, but philophobia is when you feel an overwhelming panic about it. This anxiety can interfere with your everyday life and even cause nausea or a rapid heartbeat.
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