Medicine should have a legit word for “superpower”. After all, physiologic superpowers totally do exist – synesthesia, better than average eyesight, genetically stellar lipid levels – and I’d argue that “unreasonable levels of happiness” fits the superpower bill too.
I started thinking about this today when @USMCShrink tweeted a hilarious PubMed abstract – “A proposal to classify happiness as a psychiatric disorder” – though I’m not 100% sure the original author meant it to be funny. (I mean, it’s 5 pages long, in a legit journal, and cites 32 references without cracking a grin. My sarcasm detector just isn’t up to that challenge.)
Either way, I totally believe that Chronic Happiness is a thing. A syndrome, even – because people who are perpetually excited by such major events as “getting up in the morning” and “walking down a hallway” are eerily similar in a lot of other ways as well.
Basically, it’s permanent hypomania, without the sleep symptoms. You’re just super-productive, charismatic, and hyper enough to be regularly asked “Um, so, what drugs are you on, exactly?”. For your entire life.
These people are loved by all, easily hired, and really do love their lives – so despite the increased tendency to, say, befriend random mariachi bands – I’d call it a ‘superpower’ instead of a ‘disorder’. (Partly because that’s awesome, and partly because it would mean guaranteed media coverage.)
Researching these people seems like it would be a killer way to open the door a bit wider on genetic causes of depression. But to research them appropriately, you’d need a diagnosis and some criteria. If I was in charge of the DSM (and let’s all take a moment to thank your Higher Power of choice that I am not), this is what the criteria for Idiopathic Happiness Syndrome would look like:
A. A state of unreasonable, unwarranted happiness that persists for longer than 1 year,
B. In an adult with no history of depression, dysthymia, or mania
B. Exhibiting 2 or more of the following symptoms:
* Periodic outbursts of “I LOVE LIFE. I’m sorry, I just had to say it – I love life!”
* Experiences visible anxiety or sadness when reminded that it is impossible to befriend the entire world.
* Tendency to sign emails “XOXOXOXOXO” in a fit of genuine desire to hug and kiss all 372 recipients.
* Irrational beliefs about how other people interact with strangers. For example:
In conclusion: “Genetics” = cool, “Personality” = cool, “Superpowers” = extra-cool. So “Studying genetic personality superpowers” = Why the hell is this not the most popular research field ever?
Maybe because it just needs a catchy name. So: Onward! For science!