Objective: The aim of this study was to conceptualize dysphoria in a way that is clearer, better delineated and more clinically useful, after reviewing its meanings in a variety of psychopathological contexts and the consequent conceptual confusion.
Conclusions: The current semantic status of dysphoria is most unsatisfactory. Its definitions are usually too broad or too simplistic and, therefore, not clinically useful. There is no agreement on what the term means. In this article, dysphoria is conceptualized primarily as a complex emotional state, consisting of intense unhappiness/discontent and irritability. In addition, dysphoria is often, though not invariably, accompanied by certain cognitive and behavioural features. This article reviews relationships between dysphoria and related emotional states and various psychiatric disorders, and proposes differentiations that have implications for clinical practice. The role of dysphoria in mixed states within bipolar disorder is particularly in need of further study.