Schadenfreude

sb10062916m-001Schadenfreude is pleasure or amusement in response to the misfortunes, pain, humiliation, or mistakes of other people.

What Is Schadenfreude?

Schadenfreude is a German word with no precise English equivalent. Most people experience schadenfreude from time to time; the feeling tends to occur when someone a person dislikes is threatened or experiences a setback. For example, a student might secretly delight when his or her biggest classroom competitor fails a test, and a person might take pleasure in their ex-spouse’s relationship difficulties.

Some slapstick comedies also utilize schadenfreude by encouraging an audience to laugh at others’ injuries or humiliations. In other cases, schadenfreude can serve as misplaced empathy. We all recognize the embarrassing nature of a public fall or saying something silly, and sometimes seeing that other people make the same mistakes we do can cause some joy.

What Causes Schadenfreude?

People are more likely to experience schadenfreude when they experience another person as a threat or when they dislike someone. However, people with low self-esteem sometimes experience schadenfreude even when they care about someone. A sibling who feels his/her parents don’t notice his/her talents, for example, might delight in his/her sibling’s failures, particularly if the other sibling is often praised by the parents.

While some degree of schadenfreude is part of the normal continuum of human experience, frequent schadenfreude can indicate a mental health condition. People with personality diagnoses such as antisocial personality may delight in the pain of others and have little regard for others’ well-being. Chronic anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem might also cause someone to seek validation in others’ failures. Some mental health professionals differentiate between glee at minor misfortunes—such as slipping on a banana peel or making a stupid remark—and glee at more serious suffering such as terminal illness or the death of a child.

References:

  1. Bartlett, T. (n.d.). The neuroscience of schadenfreude. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/blogs/percolator/the-neuroscience-of-schadenfreude/29659
  2. Bryer, J. (2011, December 9). Schadenfreude explained: Why we secretly smile when others fail. LiveScience.com. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/17398-schadenfreude-affirmation.html

Last Updated: 08-21-2015

  • 17 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Romeo Abendan

    August 17th, 2014 at 5:54 PM

    this one is very helpful, thank you for this article!
    it made me realize I have these type of symptom.

  • Lauren

    May 24th, 2017 at 8:42 AM

    I have some and truly hate it!
    It’s like a battle inside,I feel shame and afraid and I fear God because this is wrong.I hate when people send pictures of sad stuff because I’m gonna think some bad things about it or even laugh.It grows stronger.
    Sometimes I wish I was in another body so I could be just normal.

  • Schadenfreude

    May 5th, 2019 at 6:38 AM

    God doesn’t exist.

  • Diane

    January 10th, 2020 at 7:08 AM

    Yes, actually He does! And He loves you immensely. Someday you’ll realize this! I pray you will feel His magnificent love and glory sooner rather than later.

  • Lauren

    May 24th, 2017 at 9:00 AM

    I’ve been depressed for a long time but I couldn’t seek for help! I fought my dark night of the soul alone because I grew up hiding all my feelings! my anxiety is growing and is making my heart ache.However I feel better much better than before,I feel like I’m raising from the ashes.I think I also had/have OCD because my mind tells me do things or something will happen! Well when I was a child I use to the rituals but now I just say NO I WON’T DO IT or I think about something else and I forget the initial thought.WOW such a relief! When it’s about someone I love is truly hard to hard to say NO though ! :/ but I’m trying.
    Honestly the only thing that’s is making me more sad is these sadisc side that appeared on me and those emotions that I can’t release.I mean there’s some rooted fear that I need to recognize and release! I don’t why I’m having these cruel feelings,I don’t have courage to hurt an ant :/ Actually I love animals and never hurt them.
    I’m praying to God to make me whole and bless my new self that now recognize that I’m capable

  • E

    July 6th, 2019 at 7:52 PM

    Does this mean enjoying other people’s fear as well?

  • Tim

    December 14th, 2019 at 9:56 PM

    My brother has severe epicaricasy. He has as long as I can remember. He is 57 years old. He suffers from depression…
    Things are going well for me, in his view, and so we no longer stay in contact.

  • Mark

    June 21st, 2020 at 1:14 PM

    No, it’s not a disorder. As the article said, it’s pretty much a common thing once in a while. I really don’t know of anybody who suffers this chronically – more of a “he had it coming” situation – like with Donald Trump last night – imagine having the whole world come down on you at once – but like I said, “he had it coming” or to put it in other terms “karma’s a b*, ain’t it?”

  • Royer

    August 9th, 2020 at 7:36 AM

    For one to presume that God doesn’t exist, of which it is purely presumption, because one would himself have to be God to prove He doesn’t exist. (notice the conundrum it puts one into)

  • Misty

    April 19th, 2021 at 7:42 AM

    My husband which we are living in separate trailers now. He has smiled in my face as he was driving off when I was crying because he wouldn’t come home . He wanted to do whatever he wanted. He lies and messes with women but when he thinks I’m moving on or gonna do like him then he sticks around and acts like he’s the victim. He shows nothing but evil to my misery and has laughed at me when I fell at something with others. Pure evil. I don’t know what he’s capable of if he can laugh at my emotional pain.

  • Bobby

    April 21st, 2021 at 2:32 PM

    Remove your self from such a being, You have empathy,this is a beautiful capacity. If other’s have not learned this capacity, it is not your fault. Be free, May your life go well

  • Chelle

    May 8th, 2021 at 12:37 AM

    I raised 2 children by myself. I talked to both about right from wrong & thought the morals & values I taught them would stick with them forever. I was wrong. My son is exactly like me. We are able to be empathetic & sympathetic. My daughter is only happy when she causes extreme emotional, spiritual, & physical pain. As I listen to her & see what she has done to me & many others without any remorse and smiles or laughs at the pain she has caused feels like she is killing me. I’m constantly telling her don’t do that because there will be consequences. For 3 years my son refuses to talk to her or see her. He told her straight out that she is the worst person he’s ever known. He means every word. He lives where she could never find him or call him. As for me I have distance myself & at times hide from her. When she is near me at all she will rob me, tried to have people physically hurt me, threaten me, kept me from leaving & went as far as making faults police reports that took 2 years to fight & prove she made it all up. There are so many horrible things she’s done that it would take pages to tell you even half of them. The only time I will speak with her or see her is usually when hospital staff reach’s me. For the past ten days she was fighting an infection that most people don’t survive but she is getting better. 2 days ago while in the hospital her friend some how took drugs to her & she overdosed. Staff revived her & yesterday kicked her out. She was suppose to be committed into a mental health and drug facility. I’ve tried everything I could think of including having her son removed from her custody. Absolutely nothing fazes her. Family has disowned her. Only myself & a cousin of mine is still occasionally trying to help her by reaching out to any dual diagnosis center. When I look at her there is nothing. Like she is soulless. I don’t want her around me. I am not very healthy anymore & very tired of this but something inside won’t stop even though I really don’t like her. I need help but I know there isn’t anything left to try How come I can’t quit.

  • Doggie Mama

    May 12th, 2021 at 8:26 AM

    I am primary caregiver to my aging father – little to no help from my siblings – get outright refusals, facial grimacing and awol behavior from them when I ask for help. And then I get incessant, insufferable maligning of my character as they let their imaginations run wild with untrue accusations of my motives in caring for Dad, which I do out of love – who would put themselves through this for any other reason????? In their eyes I am always the bad guy though I saved my Dad from their neglect which almost cost him his life; have worked with dad’s lawyer to repair trust issues that would have hurt everyone, and keep a lookout for scammers that have already targeted dad successfully. And if I have a bad day, they laugh. Narcissists to the core and schadenfreude syndrome – took me a long time and lots of therapy to figure that out and even more nerve to stand up to it. Too bad my dad is so passive – he sees it but won’t support me or tell them to knock it off. I’m alone.

  • Donna

    August 2nd, 2021 at 1:57 AM

    For years Ive noticed that when I was in physical or emotional pain, my husband would mock me even by pretending he’s inflicted with the same pain. One time was when I made some really delicious soup and he wanted some broth so I put some in a mug for him. He dropped the mug and the side of my hip was scalded. He yelled in pain too saying he was also burned. I ran to the bathroom to aid myself and I ran to him to help him and HE HAD NO BURNS( Just one of many examples0. The last straw was when MY son committed suicide and a year later I was still depressed. I didnt have sex with him for two weeks so he called his brother and sister and humiliated me. Said I was a B and that I had to go. He even made fun of my son’s suicide by teasing and saying that HE was going to jump in front of a train in a mocking way. Ive never been so hurt in my life! He even asked his brother for an ex lover’s number so he can have sex with her and F me, I dont need to know about it. I dont understand why this man likes to mock any pain that I have. I know it’s not love. I dont have family or a place to go and going to a shelter is not ideal during the Corona.

  • Gotem

    August 21st, 2021 at 12:36 AM

    Who are all the above and what absurd form of catharsis do they seek by illuminating the lay reader so haplessly with their misery?

  • David not Goliath

    August 21st, 2021 at 3:16 AM

    I came across the word schadenfreude in an article this morning and looking up the meaning of it has somehow lead me to this site. It is a good thing because another new word to me a few years ago was narcissist which also lead me to various online places where I read about experiences of other people which were similar to experiences I had at the hands of what I now know was at best a covert narcissist and at worst a demon from hell (one and the same perhaps?).After realising that I had been effected by these twisted minds throughout my life at the hands of my own siblings and other close family members, I read quite a lot about narcissism and other anti social disorders such as sociopaths and psychopathy. I identify with some of the stories here, particularly the one by Doggie Mama, as I am now a caregiver to my mother and am experiencing precisely what is described in that post. It is a strange comfort to know there are others out there who face these twisted people and as a Christian all I can say is that there will be a time that all is made right and perfect. I feel for those who suffer at the hands of sick, cruel and evil people and know my experience has been light in comparison to many others.

  • joyce

    September 25th, 2021 at 9:15 AM

    Find a job and leave him asap. He will utterly destroy you. Even if it means less money, don’t tell him anything!!! just do it.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.