You have a hard time letting yourself feel happy or enjoy positive emotions. Scared of feeling joy? Yup, that’s a real thing called cherophobia, the fear of being happy. I know it sounds crazy to be afraid of good feelings, but it’s a real issue some people struggle with.

Having cherophobia can make you think you don’t deserve to feel good or that you won’t be able to handle it. But you can get past this! The good news is, even though it may not seem like it, this phobia doesn’t have to control you.

What Is Cherophobia?

Cherophobia is the persistent and irrational fear of happiness or joy. If you experience anxiety, dread, or panic around feeling cheerful or having fun, you may suffer from this unusual phobia.

People with cherophobia believe that if they allow themselves to feel joy or experience happiness, something tragic will happen. This fear of positivity and pleasure often stems from past trauma or loss. You may worry that by being happy, you’ll somehow be punished by life’s circumstances.

Avoiding Joy or Pleasurable Activities

To avoid feeling joy or happiness, you likely engage in behaviors meant to numb positive emotions like limiting social interactions, not pursuing hobbies or leisure activities, drinking excessively or doing drugs. You may also be spending all your time watching how happy you are and jumping on any good feelings real quick to squash them before they start.

Pessimistic Outlook

Living with an ongoing fear of joy can significantly impact your mental health and quality of life. You miss out on opportunities for fulfillment, meaning, and healthy social connections. Cherophobia can lead to more severe issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders if left unaddressed.

The good news is that cherophobia is actually treatable with counseling. There are people who can help you work through what’s causing the fear and give you tools to start letting yourself be happy again.

Excessive Worry or Anxiety

If something good happens, then something bad must follow, right? These are probably your thoughts. You believe that every good thing just had to be followed by something bad or sinister.

But you know what? Life isn’t always like that. Sometimes, good things can happen without something bad having to follow. It’s okay just to be happy when good things happen and not spend so much time stressing about worst-case scenarios.

Physical Stress Reactions

Feeling joy can trigger a stress response in your body. Your heart races, you feel jittery or nauseous. These physical reactions are your body’s way of protecting you from potential danger, even when there is none. Over time, this can take a major toll on your health and well-being.

Negative Thought Patterns

Those with cherophobia often have habitual negative thought patterns that sabotage happiness. You may frequently doubt yourself or your abilities, expect the worst outcome, or feel like you don’t measure up. These cognitive distortions make it difficult to accept joy when it comes your way.

Social Isolation

Sometimes, when you’re afraid of feeling something good happening, you end up avoiding being around other people. If you have a choice, you’ll just stay home instead of going out to social things. Yes, your fear of joy is powerful like that.

Potential Causes of Cherophobia

Cherophobia can sometimes run in families, indicating there may be a genetic component. If you have close relatives with anxiety disorders or depression, you may be at higher risk of developing cherophobia. However, genetics are not the only factor – environment, and life experiences also play a significant role.

Traumatic Experiences

Having traumatic or distressing experiences with happiness or joy in the past can contribute to the development of cherophobia. For example, if you’ve had an experience where feeling joyful led to emotional pain, hurt, or disappointment, you may associate happiness with negative consequences. These associations can build up over time and lead to a fear of joy.

Low Self-Esteem

People with low self-esteem or who feel unworthy of happiness may be prone to cherophobia. You may feel that you don’t deserve to feel joyful or that happiness will be fleeting or unattainable for you. This negative self-view reinforces the fear of joy. Improving your self-esteem and self-compassion can help overcome cherophobia.

Anxiety and Depression

Underlying anxiety, depression or other mental health issues can also contribute to cherophobia. Feeling fearful, hopeless or like you have little control over your emotions can fuel a fear of joy. Seeking treatment for any underlying disorders may help alleviate your fear of happiness.


Perfectionists often have unrealistic expectations for themselves and their lives. Feeling like you must achieve an impossible standard of constant happiness and joy to consider yourself worthy can breed fear of those very emotions. Learning to accept imperfections and embrace a balanced range of emotions can help perfectionists overcome cherophobia.

How To Overcome Your Fear of Happiness

Happiness can be scary when you’re not used to it. But you can overcome your fear of joy by making some simple changes.

Practice Self-Compassion

Be kind to yourself. I know it is easier said than actually done but stop the negative self-talk and criticism. You deserve to be happy, so speak to yourself with compassion. When you make a mistake, forgive yourself. Learn to accept yourself as you are instead of trying to be perfect.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Notice the thoughts you have about happiness and write them down. Then, challenge them. For example, if you think “Being happy will make me complacent and unproductive,” challenge that by saying “Being happy will give me more motivation and energy.” Find evidence that contradicts your negative beliefs.

Start Small

Don’t feel like you have to make huge life changes right away. Start by appreciating small moments of joy each day. Really take time to enjoy your morning coffee – savor every sip. Put on some music you love and just listen. Give a friend a call, I bet just hearing their voice will make you smile. Crack open a book that inspires you. As you get used to seeking those small happy moments, you’ll feel ready to tackle bigger changes when the time is right.