Scenario 1: Cancer took a young girl’s mother from her before she could even understand what death was. Ever since she realized her mom just wasn’t coming back, she’s felt unattached—to her relationships, to her school, to her life. For her, this feeling is normal now.

Scenario 2: There’s a man, just down the street from this little girl, who just recently lost his job. He spent days applying rigorously to new ones, but is now used to either not hearing back or receiving bad news from the interviewer. He spends his current days folded into the cranny of his couch.

Scenario 3: This man’s fellow employee was just diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She walks out of the doctor’s office with swollen eyes and cheeks. A few weeks later, after five straight days of calling out of work, she decides to call out for good—she’s just not motivated anymore.

Causes of Dysphoria

Dysphoria is a psychological state of general dissatisfaction and unhappiness, often characterized by an unpleasant, melancholy mood. Someone may experience dysphoria due to:

Environmental problems

  • Stress: A significant amount of stress can result in one feeling unhappy and hopeless all of the time.
  • Grief: The first scenario above is a perfect example of someone who may become dysphoric as part of their grieving process.
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Loss: In the second scenario above, the man loses his job, which sends him into a dysphoria; he shows feelings of carelessness and dissatisfaction.

Mental health conditions

  • Depression: Depression is characterized by dysphoria, or a general state of unhappiness.
  • Bipolar Disorder: The third and final scenario depicts a woman being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This diagnosis leads her into a dysphoric state, as she begins to feel embarrassed and undeserving.

Nutritional deficits and health problems

  • E.g., chronic illnesses can lead to unhappiness and frustration

Signs of Dysphoria

Dysphoria is typically a symptom for another underlying issue, whether that be a mental health condition, a recent life event, or health problem. With that being said, it’s important to tell dysphoria apart from a normal lull in happiness, so that the cause can be determined and proper treatment can be given. You may have dysphoria if you’re experiencing the following:

  • Feelings of unhappiness. Simply put, you’re just not happy. You’re actually quite unhappy and you can’t seem to find a way out of this rut.
  • Lack of motivation. You’re no longer motivated to go to work everyday or and sometimes have trouble just getting off the couch.
  • Worried loved ones. Your parents and friends are always calling to check on you because they’re worried about your emotional health.
  • Absence or loss of job. You’ve lost or quit your job because of your carelessness, sadness, or lack of motivation.
  • Plummeting health. Your health—physically, emotionally, mentally—just doesn’t feel quite right. You don’t eat decent meals, you feel emotionally drained, and your brain can’t keep up these days.
  • Feelings of hopelessness. You no longer look excitedly to the future or foster any goals. Instead, you feel like you’re stuck or have no direction.

Treatment for Dysphoria

Dysphoria typically resolves on its own, but the more uncommon long-term dysphoric states may require treatment and should be taken very seriously, as they can put an individual at a higher risk of suicide. So if you’re experiencing a long-term dysphoric state or you simply can’t take your dysphoria any longer, you have a couple treatment options:

  • Psychotherapy: This form of therapy is commonly used to treat dysphoria. It first focuses on determining the underlying cause of dysphoria and then goes on to address the feelings or the condition behind it.
  • Medication: If the dysphoria is severe, medication may be used along with psychotherapy. Medication may also be prescribed depending on a possible underlying health condition.
  • Lifestyle changes: Sometimes all it takes is making some healthy lifestyle changes, such as spending more time with friends and family, cutting out negativity, and becoming involved in something you enjoy.

Gender Dysphoria

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), an individual with gender dysphoria experiences distress because he or she does not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Those with gender dysphoria typically experience a great amount of suffering and have problems functioning normally, due to this conflict between the way they feel and the way they look. It can make individuals feel significantly uncomfortable and confused. This dysphoria may resolve when they undergo a transition or begin to live as their true selves—this can involve them wearing new clothes and hairstyles, and even choosing new names. Gender dysphoria may surface in individuals as young as 3 or 4 years old, but these feelings may not be expressed until much later in life.

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Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is the Content Development Manager at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She is a co-author of Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book and has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

Check out “Leaving Depression Behind: An Interactive, Choose Your Path Book” written by AJ Centore and Taylor Bennett."

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