Happiness as a Psychiatric Disorder

It is perhaps premature to attempt an exact definition of happiness. However, despite the fact that formal diagnostic criteria have yet to be agreed, it seems likely that happiness has affective, cognitive and behavioural components. Thus, happiness is usually characterised by a positive mood, sometimes described as 'elation' or 'joy', although this may be relatively absent in the milder happy states, sometimes termed 'contentment'. Argyle, in his review of the relevant empirical literature, focuses more on the cognitive components of happiness, which he describes in terms of a general satisfaction with specific areas of life such as relationships and work, and also in terms of the happy person's belief in his or her own competence and self-efficacy. The behavioural components of happiness are less easily characterised but particular facial expressions such as 'smiling' have been noted; interestingly there is evidence that these expressions are common across cultures, which suggests that they may be biological in origin (2). Uncontrolled observations, such as those found in plays and novels, suggest that happy people are often carefree, impulsive and unpredictable in their actions. Certain kinds of social behaviour have also been reported to accompany happiness, including a high frequency of recreational interpersonal contacts, and prosocial actions towards others identified as less happy (3). This latter observation may help to explain the persistence of happiness despite its debilitating consequences (to be described below): happy people seem to wish to force their condition on their unhappy companions and relatives. In the absence of well-established physiological markers of happiness, it seems likely that the subjective mood state will continue to be the most widely recognised indicator of the condition. Indeed, Argyle has remarked that 'If people say they are happy then they are happy' (4). In this regard, the rules for identifying happiness are remarkably similar to those used by psychiatrists to identify many other disorders, for example depression.


Both Radden and Edwards imply that irrationality may be demonstrated by the detection of cognitive deficits and distortions of one sort or another. There is excellent experimental evidence that happy people are irrational in this sense. It has been shown that happy people, in comparison with people who are miserable or depressed, are impaired when retrieving negative events from long-term memory (29). Happy people have also been shown to exhibit various biases of judgement that prevent them from acquiring a realistic understanding of their physical and social environment. Thus, there is consistent evidence that happy people overestimate their control over environmental events (often to the point of perceiving completely random events as subject to their will), give unrealistically positive evaluations of their own achievements, believe that others share their unrealistic opinions about themselves, and show a general lack of evenhandedness when comparing themselves to others (30). Although the lack of these biases in depressed people has led many psychiatric researchers to focus their attention on what has come to be known as depressive realism it is the unrealism of happy people that is more noteworthy, and surely clear evidence that such people should be regarded as psychiatrically disordered.


Happiness makes people irrational, gives them a skewed perception of themselves and others, and instill them with a desire to make others happy--a mirror of why depression is seen as a disorder.

Folksonomies: disorder psychiatry

/health and fitness/disorders (0.573835)
/art and entertainment/music (0.437533)
/health and fitness/disorders/mental disorder/depression (0.408157)

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Psychology (0.956244): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Happiness (0.757433): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Mental disorder (0.636620): dbpedia | freebase
Human behavior (0.545619): dbpedia | freebase
Psychiatry (0.495313): website | dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Positive psychology (0.477133): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Perception (0.455047): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Michael Argyle (0.449126): dbpedia | freebase | yago

 A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder.
Periodicals>Journal Article:  Bentall, R P (1992 June), A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder., Journal of Medical Ethics, 1992 June; 18(2): 94–98., Retrieved on 2013-06-28
  • Source Material [www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Folksonomies: psychology disorder