Cherophobia – Am I afraid of happiness?

The symptoms of cherophobia or fear of happiness can often be confused with depression. While depression is a persistent feeling of anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), cherophobia is an active avoidance of things that might bring joy.

Cherophobia can be culturally prescribed. For example, I remember growing up with the Bengali (or was it a family saying?) proverb “Joto Hashi, toto kanna”… roughly translated, however much you laugh, you will cry. I was in my mid-thirties before I recognized this attitude to be a life sentence of suffering fueled by judgement and anger.

According to this article, here are the symptoms of Cherophobia:

  • Anxiety when you’re invited to a social gathering.
  • Passing on opportunities that could lead to positive life changes due to the fear something bad will happen.
  • Refusing to participate in “fun” activities.
  • Thinking being happy will mean something bad will happen.
  • Thinking happiness makes you a bad or worse person.
  • Believing that showing happiness is bad for you or your friends or family.
  • Thinking that trying to be happy is a waste of time and effort.

I’m still a bit averse to what others might consider fun but I don’t actively avoid or judge joy anymore. Allowing myself to feel joy without guilt, whether sleeping in, laughing uncontrollably, dancing or dressing up has ushered in a sense of deep gratitude, instead of a sense of false superiority based on sadness. I can enjoy a dazzling sunset knowing that night will follow.

It is a misconception to think sad events that happen to us give our lives meaning and depth. Rather, it is what we do and how we overcome sadness that gives our lives meaning. Meaning is always an active construction, never simply given.

You may be asking, how can I be happy if my loved one is suffering. Out of empathy and respect, shouldn’t I also be unhappy and suffering? In a healthy and loving relationship, one would never expect another to suffer on their behalf. If I were suffering, I would want my children, husband, friends to keep finding joy instead of reflect my pain. Would’nt you?

You may be saying, happiness is stupid. Refer to the symptoms.

You may be saying, why am I always sad? Maybe you are surrounded by sad people and out of emotional loyalty decided to be sad too .

You may be saying, I don’t believe in happiness. I believe in contentment. Maybe you are allowing yourself culturally permissible doses of happiness.

If you are sad and depressed, ask yourself:

Do I want to feel happy but don’t know how, or do I want to feel sad and holier-than-thou?

Either answer can be right. For you.

Self-awareness and self-acceptance can be so liberating and yes, even joyful. The choice to look inward and ask these difficult questions is yours alone.

Wishing you joy, happiness, peace, contentment, rejoicing “chero”


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