Phobia is defined as an overwhelming, oppressing, and debilitating fear of an object, a situation, a place, an animal, or a feeling. Phobias are anxiety disorders that make people affected by them, feel a sense of danger that is completely out of proportion with respect to the actual danger that may arise from that particular situation. The most common phobias are the ones related to the presence of animals such as arachnophobia which is the fear of spiders or ophidiophobia namely the fear of snakes, followed by agoraphobia that is the fear of crowded spaces in which a person may feel trapped, helpless, or embarrassed.
Some instead, are much less known, in this category we can find trypophobia (the fear of holes, or other patterns that are closely clustered together), chaetophobia (the fear of hair), and cherophobia.
But what does the word cherophobia actually mean? The term comes from the Greek words chairo which means “I rejoice” and phobia, meaning is “fear”, and it literally stands for the fear of happiness. For many people indeed, joy is less a reason to celebrate and more a trigger of fear. Common assumptions suggest that we all aspire and aim at a life full of joyful moments, but in reality, lots of people don't want to be happy and especially extremely happy. Cherophobia is not often talked about, and many do not know the meaning of it, but nowadays, it is a pretty common issue in people of all ages.
All phobias have a specific event that causes or triggers their manifestation. With cherophobia, the origin is very frequently a traumatic happening that causes the person, starting from a young age, to fear the possibility of feeling positive emotions. In addition to that, other conditions and external factors can significantly contribute to the development of this problem. Among the many, there are schizophrenia, guilt, self-hatred, traumatic incidents, and depression.
Symptoms vary from person to person and can include mental, emotional, and physical manifestations, such as chronic anxiety, loss of control, unsatisfaction, agitation, anger, rapid pulse, excessive sweating, shortness of breath, chest pain, and nausea. The gravity of the mental and physical manifestation depends on the level of fear that the person has towards happiness. The higher the concern, the more severe the pattern of signs, symbols, and behaviors that the person will experience and manifest.
Risk factors linked with the building up of this type of fear are frequent episodes of adrenal inadequacy (which include low blood pressure, vomiting, light-headedness, weakness, and confusion), a tendency to be nervous about life situations, and to become anxious in front of all sort of stimuli.
People with this phobia always think about all the ways in which things could go wrong. Past traumas may result in patients thinking that they do not deserve happiness, that they have done something for which they are not worthy of being joyous.
At this point a question arises spontaneously, how can people affected by this tremendous disorder overcome it? It is indeed important for people to know that there is a possibility of getting rid of it because we all deserve to be happy and joyful. Treatments include hypnotherapy, counseling, psychotherapy, and neurolinguistic programming. In all cases, therapy is suggested and can be used alone or in conjunction with medication. The latter include beta clockers to alleviate anxiety and antidepressant, which are mainly used to treat severe cases and are only intended to be used for a short period of time.
The most commonly used therapies to cure cherophobia are exposure, talk, behavioral and cognitive-behavioral ones. Exposure therapy is considered as one of the most effective types of therapy for the fear of happiness. It consists of five stages that eventually lead to the appreciation of a happy event.
But where does this fear stem from? Why do people fear such a positive sensation? Experts explain that being happy means that you have something to lose, so this type of fear might arise from a subconscious need to protect yourself from that loss. Taking risks is scary, even though they could result in positive outcomes, one may prefer to stay in his or her comfort zone to avoid the possibility, even if remote, to come across unpleasant events.
This fear is also overly reinforced by the belief that being happy makes it more likely for bad things to happen. In Korea for example there is a cultural idea that conveys that if a person is happy at the moment, in the future it is very likely that he will be sad. On the other hand, in Japan, it is believed that happiness can lead to negative consequences since this emotion is capable of making people inattentive to what is happening around them. In Iran, there is a saying that states “laughing loudly wakes up sadness”, in China as well there is a similar expression “extreme happiness begets tragedy”. In western culture people tend to say that “what goes up must come down” and they usually avoid expressing their positive feelings since they may annoy others and favor a possible attack from them. In some cultures indeed, avoiding happiness is the manifestation of a superstitious act.
In conclusion, we have understood that even the most desirable thing in the world is actually controversial and the thing that so many people chase after, and the modern society is so obsessed about, actually represents a source of anxiety and worry for many.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is essential that you ask for help from a professional, because in the end, we are all deserving of at least some happiness and peace.
Cherophobia is a defense mechanism but letting go of negative thoughts is much better, living life to its maximum extent, with all of its ups and downs, is the best possible thing we can all do!
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