I am looking for a word or phrase that describes when a person can't enjoy something that should be enjoyable because there is some aspect of the experience present that other people would normally not consider important.

For instance, a person who really loves ice cream is out with friends and they go to an ice cream shop, but the price of the ice cream is higher than the person is comfortable paying. Due to social pressure the person buys some ice cream anyway, but can't enjoy it.

I'm not looking for the case where the person associates the activity in question with a bad experience or has a bad experience. Rather the reason for the lack of enjoyment is something that most people would probably dismiss as silly but which the person experiencing it has strong, perhaps irrational, feelings that interfere with their ability to enjoy what should be a fun experience.

  • If you're looking for a word to describe the experience, it could be said to be bittersweet (pleasurable but tinged with sadness or pain) Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 14:01
  • How would you like to use this phrase? For example, do you intend for it to be used by the person who is dissatisfied, or by someone else who is describing said person?
    – Charon
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 16:13
  • The last time he bought ice cream for his friends they were attacked by a knife wielding mad fiend. It resulted in a death. Something like that? Now, not surprisingly, he finds no pleasure in ice cream. "Bad memories" is a mild way of saying this. However, I don't think his friends, given the violence in this example, would deem his reaction irrational. Bad memory can still be used for what others might be called silly.
    – user116032
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 17:21
  • 2
    You can say the cost has spoiled the experience for him.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 19:06
  • These two wouldn't be specific to your or any particular context, but to give the poor guy a break you could say "he failed to fully enjoy the outing as he should have due to personal reasons/extenuating circumstances."
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 0:43

3 Answers 3


Anhedonia is "the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, e.g. exercise, hobbies, music, sexual activities or social interactions."

However, it's not clear whether this term is properly applied to a single "incident" such as you describe, vs a more general trend in the person's behavior.


You might call this person a stick in the mud.


(idiomatic, pejorative) A person unwilling to participate in activities; a curmudgeon or party pooper.


Have a little fun sometimes and don't be such a stick in the mud.

Related terms:

wet blanket, killjoy, sourpuss, party pooper, spoilsport, rain on somebody's parade, put a damper on


The question, What is the idiom or expression to describe the state that a person interrupts their happy time by believing that “this will end soon"?, may have some answers that apply to your situation. Among the answers are:

  • worrywart

             - a person who worries excessively; a constantly apprehensive person.

  • anhedonia

             - a psychological condition characterized by inability to experience pleasure in normally              pleasurable acts.

  • pessimism

             - the tendency to see the bad side of things or to expect the worst in any situation.

  • trepidation

             - worry or anxiety about something that is going to happen.

  • sabotage (also: self-sabotage)

             - deliberately destroy, damage, or obstruct (something).

  • neargasm (urban coinage)

             - the frustration of being on the brink of something fantastic but never actually tasting that              satisfaction.

  • Every silver lining has its cloud.

  • spoiling the moment

  • borrowing trouble

  • I like the term "anhedonia"
    – Michael
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 19:11

This type of person is fussy, and can be called a fusspot

fussy - excessively busy with trifles; anxious or particular about petty details (from dictionary.com)

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