Why Toxic Positivity Worsens Depression

July 31, 2019 Mahevash Shaikh

The term "toxic positivity" means exactly what it sounds like -- positivity taken to such an extreme that instead of being helpful, it is harmful. It manifests when people say things like "good vibes only," "other people have it worse than you," and "look on the bright side." Basically, the idea is to reject or invalidate any emotion that is not positive. This translates into an individual suppressing or ignoring negative emotions so that they can project only positive emotions at all times.

How Toxic Positivity Affects the Mind

We all know at least one person who seems to have it all together, living a charmed life free from any stress and worries. However, all that person is doing is living a life of faux or toxic positivity. Engaging in toxic positivity means that a person is pretending to be fine and happy all the time when, in fact, he or she is in some kind of emotional pain. While this is harmful to any individual, it is much worse for a person with depression. The idea behind toxic positivity is noble -- if you stay positive even in the most trying situations, the universe will reward you with happiness by ensuring that good things happen to you. So just by changing your attitude into a positive one, you will end up living a happier life

The above scenario will ultimately rattle any individual. Now imagine the kind of damage it will do to someone with depression. With the hope of getting rid of or alleviating depression, that person will invalidate "negative" feelings by refusing to acknowledge them in the first place. But whether that person accepts his or her feelings or not, the feelings are not going to go anywhere. So the individual will be in the undesirable position of putting on a happy face when all he or she wants to is talk about is how miserable he or she really feels. Living in this way will ensure that the person will not make it when he or she fakes it (with the "it" being happiness) and the person will not recover from depression because instead of confronting unhappy thoughts and feelings, the person is pretending as if those feelings don't exist. Thus, the person will end up more depressed than before.

What You Can Do Instead of Engaging in Toxic Positivity

We experience a wide range of emotions for a reason. Stop pressurizing yourself to be happy all the time; rather, accept and feel each emotion as and when it comes. Make sure you extend the same courtesy to other people as well, especially if they are depressed. Living in this manner is a surefire way to validate your or someone else's feelings, provide or receive support, and ultimately, get one step closer to finding true happiness.

APA Reference
Shaikh, M. (2019, July 31). Why Toxic Positivity Worsens Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 17 from

Author: Mahevash Shaikh

Mahevash Shaikh is a millennial blogger, author, and poet who writes about mental health, culture, and society. She lives to question convention and redefine normal. You can find her at her blog and on Instagram and Facebook.

September, 12 2019 at 7:16 am

Okay, this article spoke to me because I seem to be surrounded by people who love indulging in toxic positivity whenever I am feeling blue. I can't wait to show this article to them!

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