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What is Euphoria?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Feb 05, 2024
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Euphoria is a challenging concept to define. People who are euphoric are elated, joyful, happy, and their feelings may or may not relate to their circumstances. There are many folks who have momentarily slipped into a euphoric state when they’ve receive great news, when they’re in love, if they’re in the midst of a transformational religious experience, or directly after certain activities like intercourse or childbirth. As much as these states are common and enviable, there are also some times when euphoria suggests illness, drug use or abuse or drug or substance poisoning. A euphoric state could be followed by a huge come down, extreme or protracted illness, and death, or the state could be maintained and indicate presence of some forms of illness.

The three principal medical causes are intoxication, poisoning and specific types of mental illness, especially schizophrenia and manic or hypomanic states in bipolar disorder. Sometimes other medical conditions may be indicated in this state including Alzheimer’s disease.

Clearly intoxication on alcohol may cause euphoria in some people. The term “happy drunk” can apply to those people who feel grand and elated when they’ve consumed enough alcohol. It’s almost unfortunate that this feeling can be arrived at with many types of drug or alcohol use, since returning to that elated state may be more desirable than the alternative. This is perhaps one reason why drugs like cocaine create addiction so easily. Many people using them do find themselves in a euphoric state and want to return to it.

Obviously, judgment becomes exceptionally poor for people in an increasingly unrealistic state of euphoria and this could easily lead to overdose or overuse of drugs to maintain the state, or because it comes from a sense that the person is somehow impervious to harm at that point. There are many drug overdoses that briefly place people in a euphoric state, and exposure to certain dangerous chemicals like pesticides can have similar effects. Perhaps one of the most potentially harmful ways to try to achieve this state is through inhibiting breathing either inside or outside of a sexual context. Though hypoxia does result in brief euphoria, it has also clearly caused the accidental deaths of many, and is extremely dangerous to attempt to induce.

In mental illness, some schizophrenics may enter euphoria particularly if they have delusions of grandeur. Clearly they’re very ill at these times, and the state has nothing to do with their precise circumstances. Similarly, those with bipolar disorder can, when in a manic state, feel overjoyed, productive, positive and extremely happy, but this thinking is generally delusional and does not take into account the state of the person’s needs or life requirements.

A few others conditions have occasionally been associated with a euphoric state. These include age-related dementia and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), although the latter is rare. Should people be concerned about a loved one’s behavior that seems to be too euphoric, talking to a family doctor is a good place to start. However it may be hard to get someone in this state to see a doctor, since most will be convinced there is no need to do so.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Phaedrus — On Mar 25, 2014

I remember when I was a young teen, I belonged to a fringe church that would have long prayer sessions at the altar. We were supposed to pray until the Holy Spirit took control of our minds, then we'd experience euphoria. I think I reached that state once or twice, but there were believers around me who could reach a point of pure joy and happiness during every prayer session. They would start speaking in a language that sounded a little like Aramaic to me.

I don't know if all of this religious euphoria was the result of group psychology or a genuine spirtual experience, but the euphoric looks on those members' faces seemed genuine.

By RocketLanch8 — On Mar 24, 2014

I never understood what true euphoria was until a doctor gave me an injection of the painkiller Demerol. Demerol doesn't really change the origin of the pain as much as it changes your perception of the pain. In other words, once the shot kicks in, you travel to another universe where pain doesn't exist. I was truly blissed out and euphoric, but I still had to answer the hospital receptionist's questions. What was my name? Batman. Where did I live? Gotham City. I stayed in that state of mind for hours.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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