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What Is Dysphoria?

By Amanda Barnhart
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dysphoria refers to a general unpleasant mood and is often associated with mental illnesses and conditions, including mania, depression, bipolar disorder, general anxiety disorder, and personality disorders. The term can refer to many different types of mental states or moods, including anxiety, sadness, or uncomfortableness. In some cases, dysphoria is short-lived, such as when the mood or feelings occur in response to a life occurrence, including during periods of grief or high stress. When the condition occurs in conjunction with a mental illness, treatment to alleviate the associated symptoms and stabilize the patient's mood may be necessary.

The most common causes of dysphoria include depression, mania, and bipolar disorder. Patients diagnosed with these mental disorders often experience uncomfortable symptoms that contribute to a general unpleasant mood. Depression patients often experience fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and general feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Mania is characterized by confusion, clouded or racing thoughts, restlessness, delusions, and sometimes hallucinations. Patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder often experience symptoms of both mania and depression at different intervals.

Personality disorders often lead to dysphoria. These disorders cause patients to behave in ways seen as abnormal in their cultures and societies, which can lead to feelings of sadness, isolation, and other uncomfortable situations that contribute to dysphoria. Personality disorders vary widely in symptoms and severity, but most patients diagnosed with these types of illnesses require ongoing mental treatment to help them modify behaviors and manage symptoms. The most common types of personality disorders include obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoid personality disorder, and histrionic personality disorder, characterized by attention-seeking and an abnormal need for approval and praise.

Treatment for dysphoria is varied and depends on the underlying condition or circumstance causing the condition. For many people, the condition resolves on its own as the person's life circumstances improve or become less stressful. Patients diagnosed with a mental illness or who experience chronic dysphoria often require ongoing therapy or mental treatment to manage their symptoms. Psychiatric professionals work with patients to help them develop relaxation techniques to manage anxiety symptoms and behavior modification practices, such as changing focus or engaging in gentle exercise, to combat situations where they feel particularly sad or upset.

In some cases, patients diagnosed with a mental illness may require medication, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, to help them manage their symptoms. Psychiatric drugs can have unpleasant side effects and may interact with other medications the patient currently takes. Patients prescribed psychiatric drugs to manage dysphoria symptoms should be regularly monitored by doctors to adjust their dosages and help them deal with side effects as necessary.

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