Happiness is a complicated emotion. Some people find happiness over the smallest of things; seeing a pretty sunrise or finishing their to-do list and others struggle to find happiness in even the best situations.

Everyone claims they just want to be happy, so why is it that so many people actually enjoy being unhappy?

One way to explain people enjoying unhappiness is to look at a situation in which most of us can relate: horror movies. We enjoy watching horror movies, even though they make us feel scared, which is a type of unhappiness.

Andrade & Cohen (2007) carried out a study which analysed why people enjoy watching horror movies and concluded that people are able to feel both positive and negative emotions at the same time.

Psychologists want to apply this theory to general happiness/unhappiness and have developed a list of five signs so you can identify whether or not you enjoy being unhappy:

1. You find reasons to be miserable

Maybe one of the most common and also one that may often go unnoticed. Even when everything in your life is going well, you dwell on something from the past or create a problem where there isn’t one just so that you can feel negative emotions again.

This can be seen in subtle forms, so pay attention to your thoughts the next time you feel sad – are you creating something on purpose so you can enjoy being unhappy?

2. You struggle to celebrate your goals

People who enjoy being unhappy tend not to feel accomplishment after achieving goals. Or if they do, the positive emotions are very short-lived before they’re on to the next worry.

3. You have a hard time putting things behind you

This is one that a lot of people struggle with. Something is said that bothers you, and you can’t let it go. Holding grudges often shows you enjoy being unhappy as happy people tend to put negative emotions and thoughts behind them. If you struggle to do this, it’s a sure sign that you enjoy being unhappy.

4. You play the victim

This one can be hard to identify with oneself, even for the most self-aware individual. You often feel as though other people or other things outside of your control are responsible for your problems rather than your own actions.

Not owning up to your own actions when you’re in a negative situation can show you don’t like to take responsibility and would prefer to stay unhappy.

5. Dissatisfaction is second nature to you

You are always finding things to be dissatisfied with. Even when things are going perfectly fine and you may have even achieved a few of your goals lately, if you’re still feeling a strong sense that something is missing or that you can do more, it may mean you’re happy being unhappy.

Whilst it can be hard to identify certain behaviours ourselves, if you feel as though any of these signs apply to you – do something about it. The sooner you recognise and accept that this unhealthy behaviour is something you’re practicing, the sooner you can make changes towards enjoying being happy.

Let us know what your thoughts are on this topic – are you recognising any of these signs?

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Sharon

    Hi Christina
    Just read your article ” 5 Warning Signs You Actually Enjoy Being Unhappy ” Its states that your too honest with your studies & Reading books .
    I really appreciate with you ,Hope you will continue with your writing . Can I communicate with you Via Social Network site ,So I can follow you .

  2. Elitsa

    Bottom line: I enjoy being unhappy, therefore I am happy. So why do I have to change anything?

    1. Sarah

      Because you’re making other people unhappy?

      1. Eric

        But that’s basically admitting you don’t want us to be happy, you want yourself to be happy. You don’t really care, you’re lying to us to make yourself feel better. And that, ironically enough, makes us feel worse.

  3. emma

    sounds bi-polar to me…peace

    1. Nat

      You don’t know what you’re talking about.

  4. Pervaiz Ahmed

    Happiness the process not the achievement. one has to learn to enjoy the process of any action. Once that is achieved the Happiness chapter is closed and a new paradigm has entered in your mind for searching the next level and that moves on and on. One need to understand that life is all about moving.

  5. Mar

    The article hits home for someone close and dear to my heart. I have often wondered if this was even a possibility. This puts alot of things into perspective.
    How does this get fixed or worked on?

  6. space caveman

    This is a pretty intelligent assessment of what I think is happening to a lot of people.

    What I am missing here a further reading about why we do this in the first place, what are the root causes and what can we do to brake this association.

    The example about enjoying horror movies is not exact IMO because the element of fun here is in the excitement we get out of a controlled and safe raising of our fight or flight instinct – it’s exhilarating to feel the adrenalin rush with the rational knowledge that we are physically safe from harm – it’s like a risk free adventure and similar to what we get out of sport and competitions.

    on the other hand – being depressed doesn’t lively us up and excite us, it weighs us down. So while I agree there might be a shared kind of mechanism with attraction to fear, in depression we suffer real negative consequences and it is not healthy in anyway I can think of.

    So why do we do it?

    Would love to get a good answer to that, but in the meantime I’m going to hypothesize that we do it because we are just kinda dumb.

    We might have this internalized sense of entitlement to happiness, and when we don’t automatically get it we try to prove our worthiness to happiness by bashing ourselves.

    It doesn’t make common sense, but I think this is our way to protest life and its perceived injustices. I think of myself as entitled to automatic happiness and gratification but life refuses to give it me. In order for me to make this passive position defensible I need to make myself miserable so I’m cleared of the burden to take care of myself.

    I think the take away from this is that being happy feels like a chore to us that we rather ignore. Like exercising, being happy is an energy investment. It takes time, practice, and most of all the internalization of the fact that we are not naturally entitled by birth to happiness.

    Happiness is not a universal ever-lasting birthright. We need to be cunning and make use of our skills to find our own version of a happy life. That idea sounds sucky to us because we want life to give us the security of being happy just by virtue of sitting around. It actually takes a lot of courage and balls to say to yourself I’m strong and powerful enough to assert my own happiness and fight for it. Once you are done being a kid no one will guarantee you a quick fix to your problems

    This is also why I think people who grew up with resources find this part of life so challenging – it’s about accepting the loss of birthright security (lavishment and protection from mom and dad), and realizing that you are not inherently worthy of anything besides air food and water. The rest is to be acquired through personal achievement, which may or may not be of great expectations. i.e. we fear that if we take responsibility for life, we might find out we are actually not the amazing talented gift-to-the-world idealization mom made of us but rather much more average and unsensational people who have to work hard to achieve a good level of happiness and satisfaction.

    and that sucks.

  7. inshirah

    why does it happen though… why do we feel like we need to be unhappy …..like being happy is a crime or something??

  8. Brave

    I think you might have a issue dealing with depressed person!. I can tell that you never felt what is means to be depressed and how it paralyzed you. No one like to be victim, no one ever what to be stick with negative emotions amd dpreas person will hide from people would not chase attention.There is alot of non-depressed people think the way you think and it one of the some reson why depressed person afrid to show them selfe; The would bullied being depressed. Be carful of what you write this words might have serious effect if a severly depressed person read it.

    1. Hani

      I was thinking the same way.

  9. Jarrel

    Just 2 and 3, so does it mean i enjoy it?

  10. Liza

    Why break the situation or change it if someone is perfectly happy being unhappy… like me… I need dark days an pain and unhappiness to create So I need it like a drug… it’s me… we are all different👳🏽‍♀️👷🏻👩🏻‍⚕️👨🏻‍🍳👩🏻‍🏫👩🏻‍🎨👨‍🔬👮🏻‍♀️👨🏻‍🌾 the quest for happiness is an illusion for some… and it’s ok.

    1. Nicole

      Me too…☹️😓💓

    2. BootySnatcher

      I mean when you are hurting and inconveniencing yourself and others around you constantly for this unusual need for negativity, it is a problem. I live with my mother and grandmother and my grandmother is always looking for something to complain about and has an extremely hard time finding the positive side of things. She and my mother let the smallest things that don’t even matter greatly frustrate them and instead of solving or doing something about their problems, they complain and nag about them. They both would get drunk every single night and say hateful things about people and each other and even me sometimes. I have been screamed at, told there was something wrong with me, had my toys thrown against the wall from across the house, all things done by my mother, had heavy metal music blaring while crying myself to sleep as of one of my mom’s boyfriends was physically abusing her while they argue and scream at each other… I can go on and on but you get it. My childhood was pretty shit. They claimed they “just have a beer every once in a while to get a buzz after a long hard day of work” when people ask about their drinking habits, even though in truth they drank a twelve pack of beers and sometimes more every single night, and that is a lot for just two people, to let all of their pent up hatred and and anger from the day out and took it out on each other and sometimes me. My grandmother always blamed everything on my mom even when she was a child and my mom picked on my grandmother for things she couldn’t help like being old or not having certain things done around the house because she was working all day. They make each other miserable and I am always surrounded by it. I grew up around this thirst for negativity and it rubbed off on me quite a bit. I pity myself all the time and can’t take the idea that I’ve done wrong even if I feel bad for what I did because I am so use to being a victim that I can’t not be the victim, can’t take compliments or criticism, assume everyone hates me and wants nothing to do with me since I feel the same way about myself, developing into extreme social anxiety over the years making it nearly impossible to make friends or have any type of relationship with anyone at all, and the few the people in my life that do really care about me and offer I tell them anything if I need to or if I’m having a hard time I can go to them, I ignore and instead choose to self harm as oppose to talking about my problems and the way I feel, which hurts them because they are always worrying for me. By doing this I am hurting myself physically and mentally. I guess it gives me something else to feel besides the guilt and shame I feel just from existing, any other feeling like happiness and excitement I am numb to. They, the people that love me and the people I live with, don’t know I hurt myself to relive the pain I constantly endure in my head but if they did, they would feel terrible and like they didn’t do enough to help me when they did, I just choose to drown myself in pain and misery. Much like the people I live with, I’m always looking for reasons to be angry and on edge and the way I ease the pain I already cause myself is… more pain. I don’t want it to be this way, yet at the same time I do. All three of us, my mom nana and me, we are drowning. And we don’t know how to save each other. Can’t figure out how to swim. But even when others throw out floaties to save us, we won’t grab on, we don’t want to be saved. We just want to keep drowning and gasping for air because we love the rush. We love feeling like we are sinking and and hearing the yells of our saviors’ whos help is useless as we start going underwater. We don’t know why we just do. It hurts underwater because we can’t breathe but it’s worse than being able to breathe perfectly fine above the freezing ocean where the sun shines nice and bright but to us that’s why it is better underneath. Perhaps we love drowning because it’s easier staying afloat and feeling the warm sun than it is struggling in the freezing ocean but it’s never been easy so it should always be hard. We have always been drowning unable to breathe underwater so maybe we feel like that’s where we belong, maybe that’s why we hate the surface and the people with boats that stay far above it and closest to the sweet swarm sun . But things start to get bad. Real bad. By the time we are going deeper underwater and we start feeling helpless and there is no more air to breathe, when we are suffocating and having a harder and harder time reaching the surface but still by choice because we still love drowning even if it hurts even more now since things are ending faster, If the people trying to rescue us haven’t given up and left yet, steering their boats the other way after finally realizing we don’t want to be saved even though they can still hear our false cries as clear as the bright orange and yellow rays of the jolly sweet sun, they are still trying to save us, giving rope after rope and floaty after floaty, anchor after anchor, trying everything and giving up everything from their boat even if it was sentimental to them, saving us meant more. They go as far as to reaching out and trying give us their hands, leaning over their boats, risking their lives for us, but we still don’t grab their hands. We still don’t want the help, even if we are screaming underwater now, nearly dead, bubbles of black rising to the surface. But it gets worse. We start going deeper and deeper and if our rescuers still haven’t left they are leaning over and reaching even more and even more because they know it’s going to be too late if we don’t grab on soon. Some of them lean so far over they fall into the black, filthy ocean and start drowning too. And then the worst part of all comes. We start sinking and suffocating in the deep gook having lost every chance we had at being saved even if we change our minds now and regret wanting to drown more than wanting to be saved, it’s too late. By now, All of our rescuers fall into the ocean of misery from leaning too far over their safe, comfortable boats and they start drowning like we did at the start. We’ve sunk too far down, we’re in too deep now. We stop drowning and begin dying, slowly, but we were always dying slowly from the start, so if we’ve waited this long maybe we can wait a bit more. We give in to the anger and pain that we loved too much and finally we sink to the bottom of the ocean from it. It was an ocean of misery we never asked to be in but we didn’t want to leave. If only we learned how to swim in it. If only we choose to be saved since we were lucky there were even saviors there. But they are drowning just like we were now, we drug them in this filthy freezing ocean with us even if it wasn’t our intentions, this disgusting cruel ocean they have to re-learn to swim in, some of them will have the strength to push through it, some of them won’t, we did it to them, and they did it to themselves for trying to help us, all the while there we are stuck at the bottom of the ocean of misery, doomed forever. Even if we cried and begged for help and deep down just wanted out of it, we loved what we only ever knew of too much; happiness. Fear is the strongest emotion I think. I want to stay in my comfort zone more than I want to be happy, more than for the people I love to be happy. I want for everything to be miserable and chaos more than I want for everything to be ok. I don’t know what peace is like and so I don’t want it. What if I put all my effort into being happy and then I am still not satisfied? Well then all my efforts are useless and I am unsatisfied. The unknown is the scariest thing of all to us, don’t ask me why, and finding out what happens when you completely change your mindset from focusing on everything that is wrong to on everything that is right is scarier than keeping everything the sad and pitiable way it is. A life of self torment and terror sounds better than a life of peace and everything being fine because it’s just not as interesting. The three of us are so used to negativity, how could we even begin to think of everything being fine and being happy and at peace with ourselves, how dreadfully boring that would be. But maybe it’s worth a shot. We don’t want to learn how to swim, we don’t want to be saved, we want the water to be nice and warm for us but it won’t be. We must learn to swim, we must want to swim, we must want to be happy. We can’t control the temperature of the water but we can learn how to swim in it. And if we really make some progress, we can even build a big comfortable boat to stay in and hover over the filthy freezing ocean of misery like some other people we are so jealous of did and we’ll finally get a clear enough view of the gentle, warm, welcoming shiny sun and feel its sweet caring kiss from the orange and yellow rays. It would take us a while to get to that point and we’d need to know how to swim first, but we can. Will we or won’t we is up to us. It’s easy to realize how miserable you are, realizing it doesn’t have to be that way takes courage and strength. Mental courage and strength. And if you don’t have it then perhaps a therapist can help you build it up. Trauma and pain if not dealt with only spreads from generation-to-generation, person to person. Like a parasite that leaches any bit of joy and self worth you have. And all you have to do to catch a nasty parasite that sucks all of your happiness away with the people it came from is to come in contact with the people it came from. The pain is contagious and it isn’t fair because it only stops completely when the barer of the pain does something about it. If I can’t get my mom or nana to break the cycle, I at least have to break it myself. I can’t keep drowning like this anymore and dragging people who are trying to save me into the freezing ocean to drown with me. I love the feeling of drowning but I don’t think it’s worth it anymore, not worth the happiness that could have been from me and the people drowning with me who also want out of this ocean. It’s not worth how things could be instead and the faith people had in me before. Ignoring all the times I was told I wasn’t worth it by my drowning caregivers and looking at the people in boats that I’ve came across in my life that wanted me to swim so badly, I’ve been told that I’m precious and I have pretty blue eyes. I’ve been called a sweetheart and a fighter. I’ve been called intelligent and so self aware for my age. May not seem like much but to me it meant the world and that’s why I still remember those kind words. My mom and nana will try to drag me under the ocean of misery with them with their hurtful words, but I must remember what the people who think I can swim told me, and take it, and use it, and start pushing. And no matter how hard it is, that’s where it begins. And I must keep it going. I’ll tell my mom and nana they can swim like I know they can and try and reach my hand out to help them, but if they don’t grab on and swim with me because they won’t, then I will not drown with them trying to help those who won’t be helped. We are the only ones who can help ourselves and we should and must because if we don’t, we cause others to drown with us. We must learn how to swim and take others hand and ropes if they try to help us. We can try to save others and encourage them to swim but realize we can’t help who won’t be helped and be on our way to building a nice comfortable boat. But like life the boat will rock and we’ll loose some of the most valuable things that meant so much to us in the boat, they’ll fall out and so will we, so will the people we let in our boats, sometimes the boats we build will beak or sink be destroyed by a great storm or other people. It happens. Life happens. But as long as you are still here. As long as you are still stuck in the same miserable ocean as us all, the strength to keep swimming and start all over, finding humor and joy even in the cruelty of this disgusting and unfair sea is all you need. People often say happiness is a choice but it isn’t. It just happens, a lot like misery. But the decision to try and be happy and make others happy while we are still here is all up to us because drowning, swimming or cruising in a boat, we are all in the same ocean of misery. I think I’m going to stop playing victim, I think I’m going to take the people who love me into consideration, I think I’m going to make swimming look easier for my mom and nana, I think I’m going to see a therapist, I think I’m going to do some self improvement, I think I choose to be happy, I think I finally want to swim. I know I can and I always could. Some people always knew I could from just one look at me. We all can, we either will, or we won’t, but we truly can. You can too, but will you?

  11. Katie stewart


  12. Richard

    Your article is very good, sadly i am one of these people, however there are many more reasons for this kind of behaviour. I dont know that i find happiness in being sad, but i’m coming to think perhaps i’m addicted to this kind of behaviour and it does worry me. People are very complex due to a multitude of factors as you would know and in my case , while my life is not bad, i dont have anything to feel happy about but in order to feel something i reach out for sadness, as it is much easier to find things to take me down rather than up.

  13. Tudor

    I see the question why are they happy being unhappy. Well the answer is pretty simple: Those person have lived in a bad environment for a very very long time. A person close to me is in this state and no matter what I do and trying to convince them to get over it, they go in the past and stick with the bad moments like all that matters to them is there and not the present and future. She even agrees to me but just after few hours is doing the same thing.

    Any suggestions on what should I do to help her are very appreciated.

  14. William

    These comments seem to be about a year apart!

    I recognise these symptoms in someone I know. Whereas I don’t think she is actually happy about being unhappy, it has kind of become a way of life. and nothing anyone says or suggests seems to get her out of it. She has read the article and recognises that it may apply to her, but again reverts back to exhibiting all the symptoms.

    As with the previous comment, any suggestios as to how to help would be much appreciated.

  15. Nicole

    “Number 5” that’s me!!! 😥😓 I can’t understand my self most of the time.Why I need to feel sad?! I try my best so the people in my life never feel that I’m unhappy ☹️

  16. Jana

    That means i am bad?
    I can’t control myself i hate that I can’t be happy and I can’t be sad i so tired of this, I hate how I am feeling, I hate that i am happy but I don’t want be sad , actually i don’t know i am happy or sad i am excited or i am angry, Lost sense of enjoyment , I force myself to enjoy , I want Die but I want be life, I lost myself, I feel that I’m just a loser looking for pity , but I don’t chow my feelings to other because I know they will make fun of me, they will call me drama Queen, i so tired of this lifestyle , I want begin my life again.

  17. Max

    Much of this sounds like that vile ‘Toxic Positivity’ crap.
    ‘Want to stop being sad? Just be happy!’
    If one feels dissatisfied with everything one does, it’s low-self esteem or depression or some other underlying issue.
    As for bad memories and grudges, sometimes they leave scars; and they’ll show up in the unlikeliest time and places and simply batting them away won’t do.

    I hope anyone out there who feels these things gets help, really! I wish you all the best!

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