Can Happiness Cause Depression?

Many people consider happiness a destination, not a journey. According to this mindset, happiness is something we achieve after lots of hard work, rather than something we experience as we work towards our goals. Unfortunately, this mindset often leads to a surprising outcome: after we have finally accomplished that which was supposed to make us happy, we may find ourselves feeling depressed. Your online limited licensed psychologist is here to examine this unique and challenging phenomenon.

What Do You Need To Be Happy?

What is your definition of happiness? Many people consider their happiness to be contingent upon various external factors. Though you may not realize it, you may have even fallen victim to this classic mental trap before. Consider the following example statements.

I’ll be happy when I…

  • get a raise.
  • get married.
  • lose weight.
  • get my driver’s license.
  • retire.
  • have a baby.

Do any of these statements sound like something you’ve heard before – or possibly even said yourself? The “I’ll be happy when” trap is one that anyone can fall into, regardless of their age, race, ethnicity, or background. However, many people discover that once they finally get the thing(s) they were holding out for, they are not any happier than they were before.

Why Does Happiness Cause Depression?

Happiness can be compared to food in the sense that while it is necessary for nourishment and survival, too much of it can be a bad thing. When happiness is taken to an extreme for too long, it can cause people to become detached from reality. These individuals may begin to take unnecessary risks, abuse alcohol or other drugs, overeat, and engage in other dangerous behaviors. People exhibiting these types of behavior cannot sustain themselves – at a certain point, they will crash. When they do, they may experience depression, anxiety, fatigue, mood swings, panic attacks, bipolar disorder, or simply the everyday common “blues.”

Common Happy Causes That Lead To Depression

New careers, getting married, retiring, having children, graduating, major awards, and losing weight are all common examples of events that are supposed to make us happy, but can actually lead to us feeling depressed or unfulfilled. Similarly, people may feel especially down as their vacation draws to an end or on Sundays when they know that the next workweek is only a day away. How does this happen?

Each of the above situations (getting married, retiring, etc) serves an example of a major life event. Many people dream about and plan for these events for several months, years, and sometimes even decades. When they finally accomplish their goals, these people often experience an emotional high unlike any they have ever felt before… but what happens after that? Life returns to normal, and they fall back into day-to-day routines. Because they held the event on such a high pedestal for so long, this harsh reality hit may be too much for people in these situations to bear.

Avoiding The Happiness-Depression Trap

In light of this information, you probably have a very pressing question on your mind: how can we keep ourselves from becoming depressed after experiencing an especially happy event? Here are a few suggestions to help you avoid falling into this common trap:
  • Learn to appreciate little moments in your day-to-day life, rather than only focusing on the big events.
  • Recognize that even the happiest people feel a little down sometimes. True emotional health requires a balance between happiness and sadness.
  • Find something to look forward to in every day or, at the very least, every week.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about the emotions you are experiencing.

Online Psychotherapy:
Counseling WHEN You Need It, HOW You Need It

Having too much happiness lead to depression is a common pattern, but it does not mean that you are doomed to depression any time you experience an unusually happy or exciting event in life. With the proper mindset, this trap can be avoided. If you or someone you know may be at risk for this type of challenge (or potentially even already suffering from depression), talking to an experienced mental health counselor may be enormously beneficial. I offer online counseling sessions that allow me to meet with my clients whenever they need, however they need. To learn more about online psychotherapy sessions, visit my website at You can also call me directly at (248) 730-5544. I look forward to talking with you!

Samantha M. Ruth, Transformational Psychologist
Online Therapy… Your Therapy, Your Way!
Call: 248-730-5544
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