There are certain people in life you encounter who almost always seem down. These people seem to sabotage themselves just as things are going well and act like they are always waiting for the other shoe to fall. Gloom and doom is the norm for them and, robbed of joy, they seem content to wallow in their own misery.
Does this sound like you?
If yes, you may be showing signs of an addiction to unhappiness.
10 Signs of An Addiction To Unhappiness
A key to determining if you are addicted to unhappiness is to understand some of the signs that are present in your life, signs which show you may have underlying issues with being in a perpetual state of woe.
David Sack, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist and addiction psychiatry specialist, identified these 10 signs of addiction to unhappiness in his latest article, “Are You Addicted To Unhappiness?”:
- Find reasons to be miserable when life gets “too good.”
- Prefer to play the victim role and blame others rather than take personal responsibility for their choices.
- Compete with friend and colleagues to see who has it the hardest.
- Have difficulty setting and achieving goals, or conversely achieve goals only to find that they can’t enjoy their success.
- Struggle to bounce back when things don’t go their way.
- Distract, escape or cope by using drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or other addictive or compulsive behaviors.
- Stop taking care of their basic needs, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
- Feel enslaved to their emotions and powerless to change.
- Feel dissatisfied even when life is going well.
- Have dramatic, unfulfilling relationships.
Once you have determined that you may be living in a state of never-ending unhappiness, your next step is to identify experiences in your life that might have contributed to your lack of joy.
Possible Causes For An Addiction To Unhappiness
Clinical psychology researchers Martha H. Pieper, Ph.D. and William J. Pieper, M.D., coauthors of the book “Addicted to Unhappiness“, have found that people who have an acquired but unrecognized need to cause themselves unhappiness often come from stressful, abusive or highly dysfunctional childhoods. When a child grows up with this type of discomfort, they tend to normalize it. (The mind always tries to recreate what is familiar to it – it is how we are hardwired as human beings and has allowed us to survive for thousands of years.) So, for these children, the discomfort of unhappiness was equated with being loved.
There are a number of other possible causes or explanations for an addiction to unhappiness. Here are some that Dr. Sack found in his experience:
- Deeply-rooted insecurity and lack of self-esteem may cause some people to feel undeserving of happiness.
- People who grew up with a parenting style characterized by excessive discipline and unrealistic expectations may have learned to equate unhappiness with love and success.
- Lifelong struggles with trauma or other negative experiences may fuel an unconscious desire to continually return to the status quo of unhappiness.
- Some people who seem comfortable in their misery actually may be suffering from an underlying mental health disorder. Twenty percent of American adults suffer from anxiety or depression and do not know another state of being other than unhappiness.
- Some people pride themselves on realism, believing that being practical or realistic also means focusing on the negative.
- Past decisions or experiences can cause some people to be consumed by guilt or regret that they cannot overcome. Instead, they choose to punish themselves and/or others.
- Some people are afraid to feel joy since positive feelings might be a ‘setup’ for disappointment.
- The prospect of happiness strikes fear of the unknown for those who have never felt anything but unhappiness.
- Dissatisfaction becomes a motivator to work harder, change jobs, eat healthier, spend more time with friends and family, or prevent unwanted behaviors or situations.
- Some people make it a personal mission to take on the world’s problems as their own.
Is There A Cure For An Addiction To Unhappiness?
In short, yes, there is a cure for an addiction to unhappiness. There are certain steps you must take to break free from the chains of misery and woe that bind you:
- Be aware of your particular behavior or thought process that interrupts feelings of happiness and pleasure, pulling you down into a dark mood. Identifying these processes and behaviors and understanding their origins is key to implementing change in your level of happiness.
- When a negative thought or old behavior surfaces, recognize them for what they are – old coping mechanisms that are no longer needed. You need to replace them with new behaviors, like focusing on positive thoughts or memories. Reinforce your outlook on life by reminding yourself that you deserve joy and happiness.
- Remain vigilant and committed. Change does not occur overnight. You must consistently reinforce good thoughts and behaviors over the long term, something which is difficult (but not impossible) for those addicted to unhappiness to achieve.
The most important step you can take right now is to choose to get help. Nearly one-half of those with mental illnesses never seek treatment. Unhappiness is not a terminal disease – with counseling and treatment you can find the pot of golden happiness at the end of the rainbow.