What is Cherophobia?

Cherophobia is an irrational aversion to happiness or gaiety.  Classed as a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, this fear can have widespread social impact for the sufferer, leading to complete avoidance of social situations. A person with cherophobia will avoid exposing themselves to feelings or displays of happiness or gaiety in themselves and other people, including television, literature, or other forms of media. As such, cherophobia can lead to feelings of social isolation, alienation, low self-esteem, guilt, and shame.

Those who have this phobia aren’t necessarily sad, but they will be afraid to express happiness or have fun. The fear of happiness, gaiety, or the expressions of these emotions stems from the false thought that bad things will happen as a result. It is possible for cherophobia to be misdiagnosed as a symptom of another mood disorder. Although cherophobia is not defined by someone’s inability to feel happiness or gaiety, a cherophobe may suffer from other mood or anxiety disorders. A person with cherophobia will go out of their way to avoid social situations, and as a result, may feel alienation, loneliness or depression.

The origin of the word chero is Greek (meaning to rejoice; gaiety or happiness) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear).

If you know someone who suffers from cherophobia, do not try to treat them yourself. It can be tempting to want to help them “face their fear” or cheer them up. Do not attempt an intervention of any kind with someone who has a true phobia, as this can lead to further trauma, embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, and physical symptoms that could be harmful. Your friend or loved one with cherophobia likely understands that their fear of enjoyment or gaiety is irrational, however, this is not enough to overcome their fear. Only mental health practitioners should diagnose and treat cherophobia. Other disorders, such as depression and schizophrenia, may be linked to cherophobia, so it’s important not to get involved in the cherophobe’s treatment.

Symptoms of Cherophobia

  • extreme anxiety, dread
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • heart palpitation
  • excessive sweating
  • nausea
  • dry mouth
  • confusion / inability to articulate clearly
  • lack of focus
  • irritability
  • diarrhea
  • shaking
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • obsession with the subject of the phobia
  • fear or feelings of losing control
  • avoidance behavior
  • headaches

A person suffering from cherophobia may experience some or all of these symptoms, although symptoms vary from person to person. A cherophobe may feel apprehensive at the threat of displays or expressions of happiness or gaiety, and so they may develop a knack for knowing when a trigger is about to happen. The above symptoms can be either mild and fleeting or intense and prolonged.

Learn more about phobia symptoms

Causes of Cherophobia

One of several reasons that aversion to happiness may develop is the belief that when one becomes happy, a negative event will soon occur to “offset” happiness, as some type of karmic punishment for satisfaction. Stronger than a superstition, the phobic has a false conviction in their fear or hatred of happiness or joy. This belief is thought to be more prevalent in non-Western cultures.

There are thought to be four reasons why happiness may be avoided:

  1. believing that being happy will provoke bad things to happen
  2. that happiness will make you a worse person
  3. that expressing happiness is bad for you and others, and
  4. that pursuing happiness is bad for you and others

Cherophobia is a specific (or “isolated”) phobia, centered on non-social key factors. Isolated phobias tend to have some previous trauma (often in childhood and often physically injurious) as a root cause; a fear of bees may stem from an injury in childhood, for instance. Possible traumatic experiences that could lead to cherophobia may include a sudden loss of family fortune, the loss of a loved one, being taught to feel guilty about one’s good fortune, or a series of traumatic events.

Upbringing can also play a role, such as parental warnings about a direct threat (e.g.  “snakes can bite and kill you”) which is especially notable in cases where a threat is more imminent. An allergy to bees or peanut butter, for instance, would naturally reinforce a real medical concern.

It is thought that genetics and hereditary factors may play a role in specific phobias, especially those related to a danger of injury. A primal “fight or flight” reflex may be more easily triggered in those with a genetic predisposition, for instance. A knowledge of a cherophobe’s history of mental health can help speed up the process of diagnosis while ruling out other causes.

By contrast, social phobias (like a fear of body odor or touch) are less well understood, are driven by social anxiety and are broadly labeled as “social anxiety disorder”.

In all kinds of phobias, external experiences and / or reports can further reinforce or develop the fear, such as seeing a family member or friend who is affected. In extreme cases, indirect exposures can be as remote as overhearing a reference in conversation or seeing something on the news or on TV and movies.

Cherophobia, like most phobias, stems from a subconscious overprotection mechanism, and as with many phobias can also be rooted in an unresolved emotional conflict.

Learn more about the causes of phobias

Treatment for Cherophobia

  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT)
  • Habit strategies to relax
  • Cognitive therapy (CT)
  • In vivo exposure
  • Response prevention
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Energy Psychology
  • Medication
  • Meditation

As with all specific or isolated phobias, exposure therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy can be the most helpful in treating cherophobia. Medication may be necessary, however, only as a last resort, as medication treats symptoms and not the underlying problem. Through therapy, a mental health practitioner can help the cherophobe root out the underlying cause of their intense fear of happiness or gaiety in order to treat them and eventually empower them to overcome their phobia.

Cherophobia can cause significant damage to a person’s ability to live a fulfilling life with enjoyable and enriching experiences. Cherophobia may prevent a person from functioning in society, making friends, forming relationships, having children, and maintaining a social life. Fortunately it’s easy to find help for cherophobia.

Learn more about phobia treatments

Book Shelf

The list of books below are hand picked by the staff at Massive Phobia. It’s a mixture of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Habit Strategies, Trauma Healing, Mindfulness, Meditation, Buddhist Knowledge and Somatic Study. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.