Recognizing and Understanding Dysphoria

A wide range of psychological disorders can lead to feelings of dysphoria, a sensation often described as an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction with life in general. For those who experience it, it can be extremely debilitating. While moods of dysphoria are normal when they occur infrequently, long-term dysphoria is most often associated with other mental health conditions.

Dysphoria is the Opposite of Euphoria

Euphoria is a strong feeling of elation or happiness. People may feel euphoric with major life events, such as getting the perfect job or becoming a parent. Dysphoria, on the other hand, results in feelings that are the complete opposite: sadness, dissatisfaction, and disappointment. The feeling is usually fleeting, but for some, it can last days, weeks, or even months.

Characterized by Negative Feelings

Several feelings are typically associated with dysphoria, including sadness, apathy, uneasiness, and worry. People who experience dysphoria might feel that they’re unworthy of happiness or that nothing in their life is good enough. Additionally, individuals with dysphoric feelings often feel uneasy around others and may experience anxious thoughts.

Sleep Disturbances Can Be Related

It’s not uncommon for people living with dysphoria to experience sleep disturbances. For some, that may mean they’re unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, while others might have difficulty waking up in the morning. Additionally, individuals with dysphoria may have abnormal dreams or nightmares.

Often Signifies Other Health Conditions

In many cases, dysphoria is a sign of something bigger, such as a symptom of depression, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or schizophrenia. Additionally, people with hypoglycemia may experience dysphoria when their blood sugar levels drop. It’s important for anyone experiencing this symptom regularly to seek help from a qualified therapist or physician who can diagnose any underlying causes and prescribe immediate treatment.

Several Types of Dysphoria

There are several categories or types of dysphoria.

  • Gender dysphoria indicates dissatisfaction with gender identity
  • Women who experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) feel dysphoria prior to or during menstruation.
  • Tardive dysphoria refers to treatment-resistant depression
  • Rejection-sensitive dysphoria causes strong negative emotions when disappointing others.

Links to Alcohol Abuse

People who abuse alcohol often report feelings of dysphoria after binge drinking. As many as 70% of people living with alcohol dependence issues report this symptom after drinking heavily, either immediately or within the days and weeks after. For some, feelings of dysphoria can lead to more drinking, and this becomes a dangerous cycle that requires intensive treatment.

Might Occur on Its Own

While most cases of long-term dysphoria occur alongside other mental health conditions, some people do experience these feelings exclusive of other diagnoses. According to research, this type of dysphoria occurs in about 5% of Americans and is most common in women between the ages of 25 and 44.

Environmental Stressors Can Be a Cause

For some, dysphoric feelings occur as a result of environmental stressors — events such as a loved one passing away, the loss of a job, or stress associated with parenting or work. As such, it’s important to seek healthy ways to cope with stress before they result in long-term problems. If addressing these issues alone does not work, seeing a counselor or therapist learn coping methods like cognitive-behavioral therapy can also help.

Side Effects of Medication

There are some prescription medications that can result in emotional and psychological side effects, including dysphoria. This can include antipsychotics and opioids. When taking these medications, it’s important for people to report any long-term feelings of dysphoria to their prescribing physician, as this can lead to an increased risk of suicide or self-harm.

Dysphoria is Not Depression

While both dysphoria and depression include feelings of sadness or apathy, it’s important to understand that these terms are different. Dysphoria is a mood or, for some, a symptom of their condition. Depression is a mental health diagnosis of which dysphoria is often a symptom. In depression, dysphoria is often accompanied by a loss of interest in activities the individual once enjoyed, as well as a loss of appetite.