Schadenfreude 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.
- 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
- 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
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Romeo AbendanAugust 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.
LaurenMay 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.
SchadenfreudeMay 5th, 2019 at 6:38 AM
God doesn’t exist.
DianeJanuary 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.
LaurenMay 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
EJuly 6th, 2019 at 7:52 PM
Does this mean enjoying other people’s fear as well?
TimDecember 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.
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