Your “feeling bad” may be Dysphoria.

By David Joel Miller.

Dysphoria – the feeling bad problem.

Unhappy

Dysphoric.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sometimes you just feel bad. Many times, people feel bad but can’t describe what that feeling is. Ask someone at random how they feel, and the most common answers will be, good, bad, or angry. Some of this stems from the bad reputation feelings have received. Many people go to great lengths to avoid any negative feelings. When you tried to avoid negative feelings, it’s no surprise that when you do feel bad, you have difficulty identifying that feeling and giving it a name.

You may have been labeled dysphoric without your knowledge.

If you have been to see a professional because you were “feeling bad” but you didn’t know the specific reason, the professional may have written down somewhere in your file that you were “dysphoric.”

When you’re under stress, the chemicals your nervous system produces are felt widely throughout your body. Panic attacks can feel like a heart attack. Depression can leave you exhausted, lacking the energy to get out of bed. A high percentage of clients who experienced these symptoms go to the medical doctor first. Which is not a bad idea. You need to rule out a medical issue. Sitting and talking to your counselor during your heart attack could be fatal.

Once your medical Doctor has ruled out immediate, life-threatening illnesses, you may be referred to see a psychiatrist, counselor, or therapist. Seeing a counselor does not mean you are crazy. What it tells us is that your nervous system has been sending out chemicals alerting the body to an emotional crisis. The result is an episode of dysphoria.

Is dysphoria a mental illness?

Dysphoria is a term that goes back to the days of Freud. Back then someone was either diagnosed with psychosis, that meant you were crazy, or neuroses which largely meant you were struggling with the problems of living. I have seen the term dysphoria in a lot of the older literature from the fields of psychology and psychoanalysis. Today professionals use the DSM-5 to diagnose mental illness. The DSM lists about 400 different varieties of mental illnesses. Dysphoria can be an underlying symptom of many of these illnesses, but it is not one specific disorder.

No client has ever told me they felt dysphoric. But I’ve heard that they “feel bad” plenty of times. I have seen the word dysphoria on assessment forms several times, usually as a checkbox for a feeling the client might be having. As my students have heard, I think of a good assessment as more than just checking the boxes and filling out a form.

To help someone who is “feeling bad” the counselor needs to examine that feeling, identify the specific feelings involved and ideally match them up with a specific mental, emotional, or behavioral problem.

What exactly is dysphoria?

OxfordDictionaries defines dysphoria as “a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. The opposite of euphoria.” Some words are easiest to define by saying that they are the opposite of something else. Unfortunately defining dysphoria by saying it’s the opposite of euphoria is not much help.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia, from 1889, gets us closer to a useful definition. I think this is an important point. When you are reading books which were written a long time ago, Freud and Jung, even the psychoanalysts who wrote before the DSM Four, it’s important to ask what the words meant to them. The English language has always been in a state of change.

The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia defines dysphoria as; pain hard to be borne, anguish, impatience under affliction, a state of dissatisfaction, restlessness, fidgeting, or inquietude.

In Psychology dysphoria generally means one of 3 things.

Martin Seligman in his book What You Can Change and What You Can’t begins with the idea of dysphoria and then breaks it down into three specific negative emotions. I would highly recommend this book by the way. One point he makes here is that to date there is no medication which cures any mental illness. At the time he wrote this book; he listed 14 mental illnesses that could be effectively treated, cured, or greatly reduced, using specific forms of talk therapy. I’m inclined to think in the years since he wrote this book other therapies have proven effective for additional mental and emotional disorders.

Anxiety can look like a physical illness.

Anxiety disorders are the “great pretenders.” During episodes of anxiety, the thoughts in the brain mobilize the body for flight or flight activities. Anxiety reduces a lot of physical symptoms in your body and is frequently mistaken for a physical illness.

Professionals split anxiety disorders into a number of specific types. Most are temporarily manageable with medication, but when the medication wears off the anxiety returns worse than before. Therapy of several varieties, coupled with relaxation techniques and life skills training can greatly reduce the levels of anxiety.

Recently, trauma and stressor-related disorders such as PTSD were separated from the Anxiety Disorders. These problems have added symptoms such as nightmares and flashbacks. There are treatments for these disorders, but those treatments are very different from the ones used for anxiety.

Depression comes in many varieties.

Professionals categorize depression more by the physical symptoms you experience than by the cause of the depression. Some types of depression have a specific cause, and others don’t. Many of the symptoms of depression look like those of physical illness. Changes in appetite, eating either too much or too little, can all be part of depression. Changes in sleep are also an element of depression. Some people, when depressed, experience significant fatigue. Depressed people may take to bed and feel too tired to get up. Underlying depression is the loss of the ability to experience happiness. Some people can feel a few bursts of pleasure, but the temporary pleasant sensation quickly fades.

Anger and irritability are often components of dysphoria.

When someone doesn’t feel well, they are out of sorts, they become irritable and push others away. Some people feel “bad” and experience a lot of anger. Neither anger nor irritability is considered a specific mental illness, but they may be symptoms of several mental health challenges.

It would be wonderful if there were specific blood tests or x-rays that would determine that the physical symptoms you have are the result of dysphoria and could be identified as one specific mental illness. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. First, you need to see a medical Doctor to rule out physical illness. Next, you would see a counselor who would talk to you about your symptoms. Based on the number and severity of symptoms you would get a specific diagnosis.

Treatment should be tailored to you and your particular symptoms. Therapy is not something the counselor should do to you. Therapy is something the counselor and client do together. As a result of counseling, you should learn skills and new ways of thinking that will help you manage dysphoric feelings and learn to increase the number of positive feelings you experience.

If you have been feeling bad, one or more of the dysphoric feelings, please consider getting help.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller.

David Joel Miller MS is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC.)  Mr. Miller provides supervision for beginning counselors and therapists and teaches at the local college in the Substance Abuse Counseling program.

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

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Sad.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Sad child

Sad.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Sad.

“You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me.”

― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”

― Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

“The funniest people are the saddest ones”

― Confucius

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Hurt.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Hurt

Hurt.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hurt.

“If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or, I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.”

― Ray Bradbury

“Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

“A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

Free happiness hacks.

By David Joel Miller.

Add to your happiness a little at a time.

Happy Life

Happy Life.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Being happy doesn’t require a lot of money. It requires developing a few happiness skills. Happiness doesn’t come from accomplishing one grand goal.  You build happiness a little at a time each day.  Try adding a few of these happiness hacks to your life each day, and watch your total happiness grow. Which of these happiness skills should you be practicing?

Get adequate sleep.

People who fail to get enough sleep become irritable and grouchy.  Lack of sleep is a prime cause of mistakes.  People who get enough sleep are better able to handle life’s problems as they come along.  People who are chronically sleep deprived are at increased risk for depression and other mental health issues.  You will spend more time sleeping than you will expend on any other activity in your lifetime make sure you do a good job of sleeping.

Love what you do.

Second behind sleeping will be the amount of time that you will spend working.  All other activities will receive smaller amounts of your time.  If you enjoy what you do for a living it will go a long way toward making your life happy. Don’t expect those few other hours of your life to generate enough happiness to make up for working at a job that makes you miserable.  People who work a job they enjoy are doubly blessed.  They get to enjoy what they do while at work and they get to enjoy the things that the money they earn at work will provide for.

Become a happiness expert.

Happiness is one of those emotions that may be hard to spot if you haven’t made a habit out of recognizing it.  There’s a thing called the expert effect which says that it’s hard to recognize something if you don’t know what it is.  To have more happiness in your life, make it a project to study happiness so you will recognize it when it crosses your path.

Make lists of what you have, not what you are missing.

Many people have long lists of the things that they don’t have.  If you stay focused on the things that are missing in your life you create a life full of scarcity.  The happiest people are the people who spend the time to notice all the wonderful things they do have.  Make it a point to develop a gratitude list.  Give thanks for the wonderful things that you do have in your life no matter how small those things are.  People who are grateful for what they do have, find that they can be happy even in tough times.  Those who are focused on what they don’t have will find that they will never have enough things to make them happy.

For more happiness be yourself.

Happy people are fully themselves.  Learn to accept yourself the way you are.  Do not try to be someone else.  People who are genuine and authentic find it easy to be happy.  Those who are constantly trying to be someone are something other than themselves find the task impossibly discouraging.

Let others be who they are.

Happy people are able to accept others as they are.  If you’re constantly insisting that other people need to change for you to be happy you are creating your own unhappiness.  Accept other people as they are.  That does not mean that you need to let everybody into your life or associate with them.  Just accept people for who and what they are and stop upsetting yourself when they don’t meet your expectations.

Plan on having a good day.

If you tell yourself that you will have a bad day you will create that bad day.  Tell yourself that you plan to have a good day and no matter what happens you are likely to recognize those small pleasant events.

Stop comparing up.

Stop comparing yourself to other people.  There will always be someone richer, more powerful, or smarter.  Be OK with who and what you are.  Let other people be who they are.  You should not compare yourself in your gardening outfit was someone dressed to attend a fancy event.

Embrace your flaws, stop trying to be perfect.

You are a human being.  You are required to do things, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.  Nowhere in the rule book on being human does it say that anyone is expected to be perfect.

Stay in the present.

Avoid focusing on the past, it is gone.  People who stay stuck in the past are unable to live in the present.  The more you ruminate about the past, what shouldn’t have happened, the more depressed you become.  People who are constantly thinking about the future, what might happen, become highly anxious and unable to be happy in present.  People who are successful and living in the present are the happiest people.

Do more of what’s working.

Unhappiness comes from not learning from your mistakes.  Happiness is a result of discovering those things in your life that are working and doing more of them.  Constantly be on the lookout for those things that you are doing that are creating positive results.

Find your passion.

In your work, your relationships, their hobbies, and all other activities pursue your passions.  People who devote themselves to the things that they feel passionate about derive great pleasure from doing.  Whenever it is that turns you on, as long as it does not harm others, do more of it.

Allow others to be wrong.

Happy people are content to allow other people to be wrong on occasion.  Keep open the possibility that there are times you will believe something which later turns out to be incorrect.  Let other people be wrong also.  Don’t feel the need to correct others.

Pick wise goals.

Before you give a lot of time and effort to pursuing a goal make sure that goal is worthwhile.  Turns out that happiness is more about achieving good goals than about accomplishing everything.  Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.  When your goals are good and wise, any progress you make towards them will make you happy.

Keep your life in balance.

A happy life is a life that is in balance in all areas.  No one part of your life should take over.  Keep your work, your family, your self-care, and all other parts of your life in their proper balance and you make it easier to have a happy life.  In other posts, we will talk more about the various parts of your life and how to keep those all in balance.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.