After choosing the trade, I will be happy

Fear of Happiness: The fear of happiness

Such reports prompted Gilbert to develop an instrument that would more accurately measure fear of happiness. In many therapy sessions, the therapist noted the fears and concerns of his patients and used them to formulate items such as "I am worried that something bad might happen if I feel good" or "I have the feeling that I don't deserve to be happy ". The result was the "Fear of Happiness Scale".

Gilbert then asked several colleagues to assess how plausible the statements describe the fear of happiness from their point of view. He tested the resulting ten-item scale on 185 predominantly female students. All but one item (which Gilbert later removed) proved to be consistent: the test subjects all answered the questions with a similar tendency. For most of them, however, the fear was not very strong - the mean was around 12 out of 36 points.

But Gilbert provided an important starting point for further exploring fear of happiness: It appears to be closely related to depression. Those who expressed particularly great fear also achieved high scores in a depression questionnaire. "When a person is unable to experience happiness, it is pretty depressing," said Gilbert. “People who suffer from fear of happiness tend to focus on danger. Instead of thinking about the good that could happen to them, they are just trying to avoid the bad. They look at what will happen to them, them hurt or threaten. That weighs them down. "

One example is the "Neue Deutsche Welle" singer Hubert Kah. The musician, who suffered from depression, explained in a talk show: "I had the feeling: It can't be good for me. I can't be happy, it can't work out for me, I have to suffer."

Cause, consequence or side effect?

In 2014, Gilbert examined the connection between anxiety and melancholy in a group of depressed patients. The patients expressed significantly more fear of happiness than the previously surveyed students - on average, the depressed reached values ​​of almost 24 points. In addition, it was shown that the greater the fear of happiness, the more stress symptoms, fears and signs of depression occurred. Whether "fear of happiness" is the cause, consequence or rather the side effect of depression cannot be deduced from the data.

However, this may not be decisive at all, says Gilbert: "The fear of happiness is only one factor. But it is important that you deal with it in therapy." He advocates treating them like other phobias - through gradual exposure to the anxiety-inducing stimulus. "Just like a therapist with agoraphobia takes the patient out into the open, people who are afraid of happiness should try to gradually experience more happiness, for example by consciously enjoying the taste of a meal." However, it has not yet been investigated whether this mixture of mindfulness and exposure actually alleviates the symptoms.