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Cherophobia: what it means to have a fear of happiness

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Lauren Geall
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Fear of happiness: why some people feel anxious about feeling happy or enjoying themselves.

Do you dread the work Christmas party, even though you know you’ll have a good time? You might be dealing with cherophobia, the fear of happiness.      

As the season to eat, drink and be merry, Christmas is generally associated with feelings of happiness and enjoyment. With many people about to enter their last week of work before the big day itself, this week’s sure to be jam-packed with work parties, Christmas music and general merriment around the office.

For most of us, the idea of a good time coming our way fills us with feelings of excitement. The countdown to a fun event – whether that be a work Christmas party, holiday or an evening spent with friends – is often a period spent in pure anticipation, wishing the hours away until the time arrives.

But for some, things aren’t so simple. Instead of feeling excited and overjoyed at the approach of an event they know they’ll enjoy or will make them happy, they’re filled with feelings of dread and anxiety about the incoming good emotions. The name of this slightly contradictory sounding condition? Cherophobia. 

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While the term cherophobia isn’t widely used or included in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, according to Healthline, some psychologists view cherophobia as a type of anxiety disorder.

“Even though it may seem strange, people with cherophobia mistakenly pair happy events with the onset of bad news,” Juli Fraga writes for Healthline. “Often, they’re consumed with worries like, ‘If I enjoy spending time with friends, something bad will happen to one of them,’ or ‘If I celebrate my job promotion, I’ll get fired.’”

People dealing with cherophobia may even fear that embracing feelings of joy or happiness means they’re selfish, adds Fraga.

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Although cherophobia can be experienced by anyone, people dealing with the phobia may have dealt with past conflict, tragedy or trauma – and avoiding happiness as a way to protect themselves.

If you think you may be dealing with cherophobia – especially if it’s directly impacting your quality of life – it’s a good idea to bring it up with your doctor. 

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Lauren Geall

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