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.
Signs of Dysphoria
The feeling of dysphoria can be characterized by the following qualities and behaviors:
Dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria. Many mental health conditions may cause people to experience bouts of dysphoria.
Dysphoria vs. Dysmorphia
While the words “dysphoria” and “dysmorphia” sound similar and are sometimes used interchangeably, each term has its own distinct meaning.
People often use dysphoria in the context of gender dysphoria. Dysphoria by itself refers to a general sense of unease and dissatisfaction (and to distress related to one’s gender identity in the case of gender dysphoria). Dysmorphia, on the other hand, refers to irregularity in the shape or size of a body part. It’s often used in the context of body dysmorphic disorder, in which an individual has a distorted body image.
Dysphoria, Psychology, and Mental Health
A number of mental health conditions including depression, bipolar, generalized anxiety, adjustment challenges, schizophrenia, chronic pain, and personality conditions can cause a dysphoric mood.
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.
Types of Dysphoria
Dysphoria is not a mental health condition, so it is not officially divided into subtypes. Some mental health-related conditions associated with dysphoria, however, include the following.
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.
Gender dysphoria may begin to resolve when an individual transitions, or begins to live as their true gender. Transition can be described as the process through which a person aligns their physical characteristics with their gender identity. This process can often take up to several years and may involve surgery or hormone treatments, though some individuals transition without surgery and/or hormones.
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.”
Rejection sensitive dysphoria
Rejection sensitive dysphoria is a condition associated with attention-deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD). People who experience rejection sensitive dysphoria may have strong feelings of distress when they think they have fallen short of expectations or disappointed someone else.
Tardive dysphoria is a term used to refer to depression that becomes resistant to treatment through psychotropic medication over a long period of time. Experts are still learning what may cause tardive dysphoria to occur.
Post-coital dysphoria, also known as “post-sex blues,” occurs when an individual experiences feelings of sadness or anger directly after sexual intercourse. People who experience post-coital dysphoria may be in loving, committed relationships despite experiencing negative feelings after sex. Research is still out on what causes individuals to experience post-coital dysphoria, but studies have shown the experience is not uncommon.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is similar to premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, although its symptoms are more severe. Fewer women are impacted by PMDD than by PMS. However, PMDD can cause intense depression and mood issues that may interfere with an individual’s life if left unaddressed.
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.
- Dodson, W. (2019, June 18). [Self-test] Could you have rejection sensitive dysphoria? Retrieved from https://www.additudemag.com/rejection-sensitive-dysphoria-adhd-symptom-test
- El-Mallakh, R. S., Gao, Y., & Roberts, J. (2011). Tardive dysphoria: The role of long term antidepressant use in inducing chronic depression. Medical Hypotheses, 76(6), 769-773. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987711000223
- Morin, A., (2019, April 22). What is dysphoria? Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-dysphoria-4588634
- Purse, M. (2019, June 17). Dysphoric mania in bipolar disorder: Episodes with mixed features. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-dysphoria-378817
- Schweitzer, R. D., O’Brien, J., & Burri, A. (2015, October 5). Postcoital dysphoria: Prevalence and psychological correlates. Sexual Medicine, 3(4), 235-243. doi: 10.1002/sm2.74
Last Updated: 07-30-2019
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NancyJune 27th, 2018 at 5:42 PM
I want to become a trangender female.
VivianAugust 21st, 2019 at 12:23 PM
Nancy, do you have support, resources?
JoeFebruary 14th, 2019 at 11:53 AM
I find myself in a state of dysphoria when in a stressful situation relating back to a dysfunctional family upbringing. In other words it is how I react to stress.
JonFebruary 19th, 2019 at 7:47 AM
Try living with chronic pain for 19 years. Unresponsive to treatment. Dysphoria can become contagious.
GaryMarch 16th, 2019 at 4:11 PM
Try being a around gang stalkers, “ordinary and regular people,” as their related or unrelated target to reach their “results.” That will cause long term dysphoria. Attempted murder I call it.
BobSeptember 5th, 2019 at 1:18 AM
Issues with my wife has caused me to be in a perminate state of dysphoria for over 2 weeks now. Drowning in guilt with no path to atonement or forgiveness. Suicide is my only option it would seem.
The GoodTherapy TeamSeptember 5th, 2019 at 7:57 AM
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EmilyMay 10th, 2020 at 9:42 PM
DON”T KILL YOURSELF
SindelDecember 29th, 2020 at 6:24 AM
I deal with gender dysphoria for over 2 years already and I am still getting the right support. I know I am desperate to get on HRT but I would NEVER ATTEMPT TO SUICIDE. I am a survivor from my own suicide. I know I have parents who don’t treat me right as I came out to them last year about it. They are transphobic people. I am going to get remarried whence I get on HRT. I’m just going through some legal battles right now.
Dixon BJanuary 4th, 2022 at 3:52 AM
Maybe y’all should talk to a therapist…
That may sound snarky but I’m serious, a public forum isn’t the place to share life experiences like these, it can create challenges for the individual and provides trolls and other transgressive types with fodder for sabotaging the overall community of people seeking an improvement in their lives through therapy
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