‘Gender dysphoria’ is a term getting attention lately. But it’s only one use of the word dysphoria.
What is dysphoria, how do you know it’s your issue, and what can help if so?
What is dysphoria?
To find the meaning of dysphoria, think about euphoria and feeling on top of the world. Dysphoria is its opposite. You feel despondent and life seems difficult. Or look to the Greek root of the word, which means ‘hard to bear’.
This means you feel uncomfortable and unhappy about your gender or sex. It could be you have a conflict between your physical gender and the gender you identify with. You can feel trapped in the wrong body, or you might just feel very anxious.
PMDD was not previously a clinical diagnosis in the UK. but it has recently been included in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) diagnostic manual, the ICD-11. It is also recognised by America’s diagnostic manual the DSM-5 (you can read the DSM-5 criteria for PMDD diagnosis here).
The social and environmental factors that cause situational dysphoria include things like homelessness, living in an institutional setting, and refugee status.
Body integrity dysphoria
The WHO’s manual the ICD-11 refers to body integrity dysphoria as, “an intense and persistent desire to become physically disabled in a significant way (e.g., major limb amputee, paraplegic, blind). Or intense feelings of inappropriateness concerning current non-disabled body configuration.”
Dysphoria vs dysmorphia
If there are two words that are easy to confuse, these two would be it. And gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia might be labels that could both be given to one person, in a ‘comorbid diagnosis‘.
Gender dysphoria again means you are not comfortable because the sex of your body doesn’t match the gender you feel you are. It’s not seen as a mental disorder, as it doesn’t cloud your ability to see clearly, but it can contribute to anxiety and depression.
Body dysmorphia, on the other hand, means you have an unhealthy obsession with the idea that something about your body is flawed and shameful. It is a mental disorder in that it affects your perception of reality.
You might, for example, see a ‘funhouse mirror’ version of yourself, compared to what you body is really like. A common example here is an anorexic person who looks in the mirror and sees someone overweight.
It’s important because it is a red flag we are struggling emotionally and mentally. And it can be a precursor to more difficult to treat issues and disorders. At its most serious, it can mean we are more vulnerable to suicidal thinking.
What do I do if I think I have dysphoria?
Consider a physical check up first , to rule out any medical issue. Dysphoria can be triggered by things like hypoglycaemia or medications.