Fear of Happiness Predicts Concurrent but not Prospective Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents


  • Merle Kock Orcid
  • Eline Belmans Orcid
  • Filip Raes Orcid


Background: It is increasingly recognised that the study of responses to positive emotions significantly contributes to our understanding of psychopathology. Notably, positive emotions are not necessarily experienced as pleasurable. Instead, some believe that experiencing happiness may have negative consequences, referred to as fear of happiness (FOH), or they experience a fear of losing control over positive emotions (FOLC). According to reward devaluation theory, such an association of positivity with negative outcomes will result in positive stimuli being devalued over time, contributing to or maintaining depressive symptoms. The prospective relationship between fears of positivity and depressive symptoms is yet to be examined in adolescents. The present longitudinal study investigated whether FOH and FOLC prospectively predict depressive symptoms. Method: 128 adolescents between 16-18 years of age (M = 16.87, SD = 0.80) recruited from two secondary schools in Flanders, Belgium, completed measures of depressive symptoms (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales) including consummatory anhedonia, FOH (Fear of Happiness Scale), and FOLC (Affective Control Scale) in their classroom at baseline and 2-months follow-up. Regression analyses were performed to test the association between FOH, FOLC, and depressive symptoms. Results: FOH concurrently, but not prospectively, predicted depressive symptoms. There was no significant association between FOH and consummatory anhedonia. FOLC was not a significant predictor of depressive symptoms or consummatory anhedonia. Conclusion: These findings suggest that FOH may only be concurrently related to depressive symptoms. Considering prior findings in adults, future research should investigate the association of FOH with anticipatory anhedonia in adolescents.