What is happiness anxiety?
The anxiety you feel when you are on the verge of success, have met a goal, or are experiencing something wonderful in your life.
This is the anxiety you experience when life is good – you’ve kissed success, you have what you want, life is easy. And bam. You feel the urge to flee or freeze.
The fear creeps up on you and takes over. Perhaps it makes you retreat and hide away. Maybe it makes you buckle down and plan for the worst.
It’s the moment you’re rocking your beautiful baby and kissing their head and you feel a surge of terror. “This is too perfect, what if something happens to them?”
It’s the moment you get promoted and then don’t feel like going to work on Monday.
It’s your birthday and you aren’t up for celebrating.
Living with happiness anxiety
When it comes to anxiety, this is the form I experience the most. I feel dread in happy moments. It’s been a major detractor from my ability to experience unencumbered joy.
I never like to pump up my birthday. It makes me anxious. I don’t think I have one photo of a graduation. Because, it made me anxious. “Just get me out of here!” was how I really felt.
I quietly face these anxieties, pretending like all is good, but I also make sure to make an A-line for the door as quickly as I can.
Yesterday, when I hit 10k followers on instagram, I noticed myself shutting down. I didn’t really visit this account today. I didn’t post anything. I started telling myself I wasn’t into it anymore. I felt worried all day. I didn’t know why.
And then, I realized, I was having “happiness anxiety”. Something good happened and I just couldn’t deal.
I struggle to welcome my wins & successes. I wait for the other shoe to drop. Actually, I don’t wait, I plan tirelessly to prevent it from dropping.
Luckily, I’ve developed awareness of this so I can snap myself out of it.
Why does this happen?
It’s because what’s wired together gets fired together. People with “high functioning anxiety” at some point connected happiness or success to fear.
In my case, I trace it back to the fact that anything that was supposed to be fun, enjoyable, or exciting often turned into a nightmare.
I’ve learned to connect excitement with the shoe dropping because it always did. Someone got in trouble, someone got upset.
I know I’m not alone in this.
I know many people suffer with this inability to celebrate their wins. To allow themselves to grow. To believe their success. To believe their happiness is sustainable.
How to cope with happiness anxiety
I can share with you my own experience of it because I’ve become aware of it. I know how to navigate it. I’ve worked through it. You can too.
What do you think wired success with fear? Why aren’t you allowing yourself to feel joy, pride, and happiness when things go well?
These are questions that will help you to reflect on this very real form of fear based self sabotage.
Article by Elizabeth Earnshaw.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, LMFT is the founder and Clinical Director of A Better Life Therapy. She supports individuals and couples to develop healthy and fulfilling relationships. She is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, right next to City Hall!