Dysphoria is a state of generalized unhappiness, restlessness, dissatisfaction, or frustration, and it can be a symptom of several mental health conditions.
What Is Dysphoria?
Dysphoria is a psychological state that is often caused by or accompanies a mental health condition. Stress, grief, relationship difficulties, and other environmental problems can also cause dysphoria. Most often, dysphoria is a mood, which means someone can have fleeting moments of dysphoria. People can also experience long-term dysphoric states, and long-term dysphoria is often strongly associated with mental health conditions that affect mood such as major depression, mania, and cyclothymia.
Nutritional deficits and health conditions can also cause dysphoria. For example, people with hypoglycemia sometimes report feelings of dysphoria, and the stress of a chronic illness can cause feelings of unhappiness and frustration, which can be considered dysphoria.
Dysphoria and Mental Health
Dysphoria passes normally for most people, but people experiencing long-term dysphoric states are at higher risks of suicide and are therefore encouraged to contact a therapist or other health care professional. There are treatments that can help people overcome feelings of sadness or dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria, described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as distress often present in individuals whose gender identity differs from gender assigned at birth, replaces the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID). GID was removed from the fifth edition of the DSM as the diagnosis was believed to contribute to pathologization of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals.
People may still experience gender dysphoria during transition, especially when misgendered—when their gender is identified incorrectly—by others. Individuals experiencing gender dysphoria or conditions occurring in conjunction with or as a result of dysphoria, such as depression, may find therapy to be helpful for addressing their distress. It is important to note an ethical and qualified therapist will not attempt to encourage a person to conform to the gender assigned at birth or otherwise treat that individual’s identity as “confusion.”
How Is Dysphoria Treated?
Dysphoria is a symptom, not a stand-alone diagnosis, and people often seek mental health care for feelings of dysphoria. Psychotherapy is a common tool to treat dysphoria and works by first identifying the underlying cause or conditions of dysphoria, and then by addressing the feelings or conditions that cause it.
Depending on the severity of dysphoria and the conditions that are causing it, medication may be used in conjunction with psychotherapy. People with dysphoria may also require medical treatment if their symptoms are caused by an underlying physical health condition. Sometimes lifestyle changes, such as spending more time with family, engaging in hobbies, changing your diet, or changing routines can also help. Your therapist can help you identify positive lifestyle changes to implement in order to reduce or remove dysphoria from your life.
- American Psychological Association. (2009). APA concise dictionary of psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Dysphoria. (n.d.). Psychology Wiki. Retrieved from http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Dysphoria
- Read, K. (2012, June 08). What is dysphoria? com Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved from http://bipolar.about.com/cs/faqs/f/faq_dysphoria.htm
Last Updated: 04-18-2016
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