The roles of gender, early childhood loss and personality as risk factors for lifetime episodes of dysphoria were examined in a large sample of college students (N = 557). Dysphoria classifications were based on the Inventory to Diagnose Depression (IDD) and the IDD-Lifetime Version. Brief dysphoria was defined as meeting DSM-III-R symptom criteria for major depression without meeting the two-week duration criteria, whereas protracted dysphoria required that the duration criteria were also met. Although females reported higher levels of depressive symptoms and neuroticism than did males, and were more likely to have a lifetime history of episodes of dysphoria, males were more susceptible to the adverse effects of early childhood loss. Males with loss were more likely to have a history of protracted dysphoria and to report higher levels of neuroticism than were males who did not experience an early parental loss. Neuroticism, in turn, acted as a trait vulnerability characteristic to episodes of dysphoria in both males and females. Interestingly, the effects of gender on lifetime experience of dysphoria were mediated by neuroticism: females' increased vulnerability to episodes of dysphoria was due to their elevated levels of neuroticism.