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Happiness can be a difficult, foreign feeling for people who aren’t used to experiencing it.
The truth of the matter is that some people don’t get to experience much happiness in their day-to-day life. They may be having a hard time with the stress of their regular life with bills, work, society’s ills, family, and more.
It could also be that they struggle with mental illness. It’s hard to find happiness through anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, etc.
Life is just hard for a lot of people. And if life has been hard for a long time, it can feel uncomfortable for things to be going well.
Happiness and excitement can bring anxiety and paranoia because you automatically assume something is wrong and will end badly.
For example, let’s say you meet this awesome new person that you start dating. Clearly, they must be hiding something! No one is this awesome! Right? Sure, everyone’s got their flaws, but that doesn’t mean they’re secretly terrible.
You may also feel a crash into anxiety or despair when you accomplish something as your body physiologically responds to the stress and effort of achieving that thing. It’s like you manage to control your feelings as you do the work, and then it is all released at once when you complete the task at hand. Sadly, this means you do get to enjoy the fruits of your labor or the sense of accomplishment you might otherwise feel.
In this article, we will cover some reasons you may experience anxiety when things are going well and how to deal with them.
But first, suppose you are someone who experiences distress and anxiety to the point of it disrupting your ability to live your life. In that case, you should definitely talk to a certified mental health professional about what you’re experiencing.
We really do recommend that you seek professional help from one of the therapists at BetterHelp.com as professional therapy can be highly effective in helping you to explore your anxiety and find ways to ease it, if not overcome it for good.
1. Mental illness.
The most obvious of the reasons is mental illness. Mental illness complicates life in many different ways because it can distort one’s perceptions and emotions.
A mentally unwell person may not have experienced happiness in a long time. In fact, it may be years or even decades when you’re talking about chronic mental illness.
People born into a situation with unkind parents or a difficult life may experience trauma, develop depression, and face other issues that impact their ability to have healthy relationships or experience happiness. That can go on for decades, even the rest of the person’s life, if they never realize that there is a problem.
People often assume that they shouldn’t experience happiness because life is hard and there is so much suffering in the world. But unfortunately, a person with a distorted perception from unresolved trauma or depression may just believe that perception is true and accurate when it’s not. It’s the result of trauma and mental illness.
What to do about it? Mental illness is not something to take lightly. Quite often, it requires medical intervention and treatment to control and manage. Your best option is to seek professional help to help you dial in on the specific problem you’re facing to find the right treatment option for you.
In addition, there are supplemental activities that you can try to manage this anxiety, like exercising, meditation, journaling, reducing stress in your life, and cutting down on stimulants like coffee and energy drinks. Still, these things will likely not be enough without the proper professional care.
2. Anxiety disorders and anxiety.
Anxiety disorders and anxiety require their own specific entry beyond the umbrella of mental illness.
The first thing to understand is the difference between anxiety and an anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder is a recurring, persistent condition. Anxiety is a totally normal emotion to experience when faced with uncertainty or something intimidating. The keyword that separates the two is “disorder.”
A person who’s just experiencing anxiety will find that anxiety disappears when the situation ends. However, people with an anxiety disorder will find that their discomfort kicks up regularly around specific situations related to their anxiety or generally experience it for no reason.
For example, a person with Social Anxiety Disorder may find that their discomfort and agitation increase with an upcoming social situation or when they’re in a social situation.
Or think of it this way: it is perfectly normal to experience non-disordered anxiety before a job interview – most people do. But someone with an anxiety disorder may experience discomfort from hanging out with friends – which most people do not.
In relation to anxiety disrupting happiness, it may cause you to be uncomfortable because of the additional emotions that get stirred up. The anxiety from the happiness or good times you find yourself in can cause anger, paranoia, and agitation – all of which threaten to undermine the happiness. It’s hard to just sit in the happiness because your brain is hyper-alert and responding negatively to the good stress from the positive feelings.
What to do about it? Seeking help from a mental health professional for this kind of anxiety will also be necessary. Self-management practices like reducing your overall stress, avoiding stimulants, getting quality sleep, journaling, and meditation can all help. But, again, it really depends on the root cause of the anxiety.
3. Cherophobia: a fear of happiness.
Anxiety and discomfort from the prospect of happiness could point to cherophobia, a fear of happiness. Cherophobia may cause people to avoid happy and positive experiences because of irrational fear. Even something like hanging out with friends or doing something you enjoy can be enough to cause distressing feelings of anxiety.
The discomfort may be so intense that the cherophobic person actively sabotages their own ability to have positive experiences. They often feel like any happy situation preludes a bad situation.
For example, “If I take a road trip that I’m really looking forward to, I will get into an accident.” It may also be something like, “I can’t celebrate my new job because I’ll get fired.”
The wrong conclusion is often extreme and not reasonable. In the above example, it would be reasonable to be concerned that your car will break down on a long road trip. It’s reasonable to prepare for such a scenario. You might sign up for Roadside Assistance to easily get help if it happens.
People with cherophobia may also believe that their happiness and joy don’t show compassion to their less fortunate friends. Instead, they may feel like their happiness is selfish and self-centered as if they don’t care about their less fortunate friends.
What to do about it? A person who experiences discomfort to this degree will likely need help from a medical professional. Other anxiety management tactics can help, but these feelings may be too strong to make a meaningful difference.
An additional way you can try to temper these extreme feelings is to keep a list of good, happy things that did not result in catastrophe. Write them down so you have a tangible list you can refer to when you get uncomfortable. That may prevent spiraling and reground your mind out of the anxiety.
4. You may be exhausted.
Let’s say you’re a busy person. You’re working hard, taking care of your home, taking care of family, and keeping up with life in general.
Well, happiness is actually a stressful experience of its own. While that happiness may feel wonderful, you’re still expending emotional, mental, and physical energy while experiencing it.
You’re putting so much energy into your goals and life that the additional draw of the energy of happiness can actually cause discomfort and exhaustion.
What do about it? It’s important to try to maintain some kind of work-life balance. A 40-hour work week is exhausting as it is. Unfortunately, many people need to put in even more hours just to pay rent and buy food. And if you happen to be food or housing insecure, there’s a threat that you may lose your stability if you were to miss a day of work or a paycheck, which amplifies stress.
If you can, get that work-life balance sorted out. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (7-8 hours), and pencil in some time for rest and relaxation into your schedule wherever you can get it.
5. Happiness challenges your identity.
There are some people out there who have many unkind opinions about themselves. They may have had a hard go at life, experienced many setbacks, things not working out, and tragedies. They may have had people they trusted – and who should have loved them – make them feel small, like they are a failure.
As a result, they may identify as a failure who is unworthy and undeserving of happiness. The person may feel as though their setbacks or the words of a**holes define them as a not good person, or not good enough person.
This person may avoid or sabotage their own potential for happiness when it comes to them. That kind of behavior is often a trauma response.
What to do about it? Trauma is a serious personal issue that bleeds out into other parts of a person’s life. Addressing trauma and its behaviors is best done with a qualified therapist.
However, some other things might help. If you can’t be positive, try not to be negative. There is a middle ground where you can try to find some balance. Regardless of how uncomfortable you feel, just try not to sabotage the good things coming to you.
Keep in mind that you are a valuable person, even if you haven’t done great things or people weren’t kind to you, and you deserve to feel good things about yourself.
6. Physiological stress response.
As previously mentioned, experiencing happy or good feelings elicits something very similar to the stress response. Sometimes, stress responses get mixed up in the body and mind.
For example, you may experience anxiety because your body’s stress response is telling you that something is wrong when you experience happiness or have a good experience coming up. That signal that something is wrong causes your body and mind to start producing the chemicals necessary to deal with the stress, which increases your anxiety concerning feeling good or happy.
What to do about it? Unfortunately, there’s not a lot you can do about this response without the help of a mental health professional. Dealing with the body’s physiology may require medication to get it under control.
7. You may be afraid that you’ve peaked.
You’ve devoted a lot of time to improving your life. You’ve worked hard, maybe gone to college for a degree, paid your bills, and have a loving relationship. Things are good; great even!
But still, there is this underlying sense of anxiety about it all crashing down around you. After all, everyone knows that good times don’t last forever. Right?
What will it be? Will it be your relationship blowing up? Losing the job and not being able to find another one? Big bills from house or car repairs? What will go wrong? Something must go wrong because things are just too good right now.
What to do about it? You may have greater success self-managing this kind of anxiety. Mindfulness and gratitude can both help immensely.
Much of this anxiety comes from dwelling on the future and what could happen. The problem is that no one can see the future. Sure, things may take a downturn sooner or later. That’s just life sometimes. But that doesn’t mean that it will be catastrophic or that you won’t be able to manage it.
In fact, working on building your skills to handle things when they don’t go right can help you widen your comfort zone.
8. Fear of expressing your genuine feelings.
Sometimes when you’re successful, you may feel like you can’t be honest about your happiness or success. That fear may be well-founded. Perhaps your family isn’t full of the greatest people. You know you can’t disclose that you have more money, or they will line up to borrow the money you’ll never get back.
You may also not want to share your success and happiness with your friends if they are not doing so well in life. You may feel that you need to avoid sharing your happiness because they won’t be supportive. They may respond with anger, bitterness, or cynicism. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad people, just people going through a bad time and emotional difficulty of their own. Unless they are bad people, in which case you should make some different friends.
Happiness has some physiological effects that are similar to stress. And then you pile on additional stress from being afraid to share your feelings, and you can experience anxiety from those positive feelings.
What to do about it? Self-management techniques can help temper this off. It might also help to journal out your positive emotions, excitement, and happiness at the change in your situation, then destroy the paper you wrote it on. That way, you can get the emotions out of your head and process them in a healthier way.
As you can see, experiencing anxiety from happy experiences is a nuanced subject. There are many reasons that you may be having those negative feelings. Sometimes you can temper them off with anxiety-oriented self-management techniques. That isn’t likely to put those feelings completely to rest, though.
The best thing to do would be to get to the root of the anxiety and address the cause. It might be trauma, mental illness, self-esteem, or even just a physiological response that you can’t directly control.
Still, try to lean on your support network or a support group when you are going through this anxiety. In addition, you’ll want to talk about it more with a qualified therapist who can help you find the right path toward management and recovery.
A good place to get professional help is the website BetterHelp.com – here, you’ll be able to connect with a therapist via phone, video, or instant message.
While you may try to work through this yourself, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can address. And if it is affecting your mental well-being, relationships, or life in general, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Click here if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
You’ve already taken the first step just by searching for and reading this article. The worst thing you can do right now is nothing. The best thing is to speak to a therapist. The next best thing is to implement everything you’ve learned in this article by yourself. The choice is yours.
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