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