6 Reasons Why You Might Be Addicted to Sadness

Do you believe in the idea that we are ultimately in charge of our own happiness and that “happiness is always a choice”? Throughout history, there have been plenty of great examples of individuals who have found happiness in spite of even the most dire of circumstances. People like Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai, for example, have become symbols of the bountiful resilience, hope, optimism, and fighting spirit that we all have inside of us. 

Perhaps most moving of all is the life of Eva Mozes Kor. A Romanian-born American Holocaust survivor, Eva and her twin sister Miriam was subjected to cruel human experimentation at an Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. And yet, in spite of all those years she suffered at the hands of Nazis, she dedicated most of her later life trying to locate other survivors of the experiments and founded a humanitarian organization that vowed not only to tell the story of these victims, but to preach values of love, peace, and forgiveness above all else.

But if these stories are anything to go by, then why aren’t more people happy? And why does it seem so hard for the rest of us? Well, psychology tells us that it’s not actually that simple and that there’s a lot more to happiness than we think. In fact, some people can even come to fear happiness and become addicted to sadness instead.

With that said, here are 6 psychology-backed reasons why you might be addicted to sadness:

1. Learned helplessness

A concept first studied by psychologist Martin Seligmann, learned helplessness is defined as “a sense of powerlessness, often arising from a traumatic event or persistent failure to succeed, that tends to develop into depressive and self-destructive behavioral patterns and tendencies.” Simply put, learned helplessness is what happens when you’ve been chronically abused and traumatized to the point where you no longer believe it possible that things will ever get better. Tragedy and suffering have played such a large role in your life for so long that you start to think there’s nothing you can do to change things for the better anymore and you become resigned, hopeless, and addicted to sadness.

2. Positive reinforcement

Another reason why we can become addicted to sadness is if it is positively reinforced in us. Positive reinforcement happens when a desirable stimulus reinforces a certain behavior in us, making it more likely to reoccur. Simply put, when we are rewarded and enabled for our sadness, it’s all too easy to become addicted to it and get stuck in our ways. An example would be if constantly playing the victim and “needing to be saved” from your own sadness is the only way you’ve learned how to get close to others or gain the care and attention of your loved ones.

3. Choice theory

Pioneered by world-renowned psychotherapist William Glasser, choice theory in a nutshell posits that we are all responsible for what we choose to do and that we are much more in control of our lives than we realize. In fact, Glasser once famously said that “we choose everything we do, including the misery we feel.” So according to choice theory, you might be addicted to sadness because you are — be it knowingly or unknowingly — choosing to punish yourself with these feelings. So think long and hard, is there anything you feel guilty about in your life that might cultivate such feelings of self-loathing?

4. Unhealed trauma

Similar to the last point, trauma can often lead to an unconscious desire for unhappiness in our lives, especially if left unresolved. Why? Because more often than not, those who have suffered a traumatic experience have a hard time moving on from their past and instead fall into the trap of denial, negativity, and self-sabotage. They become resistant to positive change because happiness, safety, and security just seems so scary and unfamiliar to them now. In their minds, happiness is fleeting and transient, so why bother trying to chase after it when you’ll only end up disappointed?

sad woman looking at anonymous woman during conflict

5. Low self-esteem

Some people also become addicted to sadness as a result of having low self-esteem. Deeply rooted insecurities and a lack of self-worth can lead them to believe that they don’t deserve to be happy. They’re extremely harsh and critical towards themselves and often find it difficult to overcome their own sense of self-pity. They are quick to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong in their lives, even if they have no control over it, and are often plagued by feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.

6. Undiagnosed mental health issues

Finally, but perhaps most importantly, a hyperfixation on one’s own sadness can be a key indicator that someone is suffering from an undiagnosed mental health issue. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, or something else entirely, people struggling with an undiagnosed mental illness will have a harder time than most regulating their emotions and overcoming feelings of sadness and distress. And the longer they go without getting the help they need, the harder it will be for them to overcome their mental illness. 

That’s why it’s so important that if you or anyone you know is struggling with their mental health, don’t hesitate to reach out to a mental healthcare professional right away. And if you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here and feel it applies to your situation right now, seek help and open up about it to someone you trust. The sooner you can break the habit of being addicted to your own sadness, the better your life will be.

So, what’s your reason for being addicted to sadness? And how do you plan to overcome it?

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  1. I tend to ruminate a lot because I think I will acquire some sort of wisdom from it.

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