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Immediate Access for help and advice

Dysphoria Explained

When individuals who are dependent on substances such as drugs or alcohol undergo detoxification, they often experience withdrawal symptoms. Detoxification involves slowly reducing the amount of a substance that an individual is taking until they are able to function without it. However, as the patient takes less of the substance, their body is likely to react to the change.

Although the detox process is gradual to limit the withdrawal symptoms, once an individual is substance dependent, withdrawal symptoms are inevitable.

There are many types of withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol or drug dependence and withdrawal, including physical and psychological symptoms. Dysphoria is one of the most frequently experienced psychological symptoms of withdrawal.

What Is Dysphoria?

Dysphoria is the opposite state of mind to euphoria. The condition is characterised by an intense feeling of unease, which can be general or specific to a particular part of an individual’s life. People who experience dysphoria typically feel extremely negative about the future and dissatisfied with life or themselves. This often results in patients having a bleak outlook and considering unrealistic or improbable outcomes to scenarios.

Many people experience dysphoria, and the condition can be either mild and short-lived or long-term and severe. Mild forms of dysphoria are not considered to be a mental health issue, although long-term dysphoria can lead to depression and suicide and consequently is considered to be related to mental illness.

The DSM-5 considers dysphoria to be on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.

Types of Dysphoria

There are a variety of types of dysphoria, including gender dysphoria, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, rejection sensitive dysphoria and substance abuse dysphoria. Gender dysphoria refers to the feelings of dissatisfaction or disassociation that an individual may feel regarding the gender they were assigned at birth. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a mood disorder that affects women around their period of menstruation. This type of dysphoria is similar to premenstrual syndrome, although the symptoms are far more severe and long-lasting.

Rejection sensitive dysphoria is another type of dysphoric condition that is strongly associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Those experiencing this type of dysphoria feel distressed when they believe they have fallen short of the expectations of another. Additionally, substance abuse dysphoria is a common type of dysphoria most frequently associated with alcoholism. Many people who are alcohol dependent experience dysphoria during periods of heavy drinking.

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Causes of Dysphoria

The cause of dysphoria will depend on the type of dysphoria an individual is experiencing. The causes of gender dysphoria are widely disputed and somewhat unknown. However, it is generally accepted that gender dysphoria is caused by a range or combination of hormone issues and intersex conditions.

Other forms of dysphoria are typically caused by external factors, substance abuse, environmental stressors or mental health conditions such as depression, seasonal affective disorder, personality disorder or bipolar disorder. In some cases, medical conditions such as nutritional deficiencies, thyroid problems or toxicities can also cause dysphoria.

Symptoms of Dysphoria

The symptoms of dysphoria are typically psychological and can be similar to the signs and symptoms of depression or other mental health conditions. The most common signs of dysphoria are feelings of great sadness, apathy to life, worry and a lack of satisfaction in one’s life or one’s self.

Dysphoria can also cause some physical symptoms. The most common physical symptom of dysphoria is fatigue, which can be chronic in some patients with severe dysphoria.

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