Gender Dysphoria: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
When a person’s assigned gender does not match their gender identity, they experience gender dysphoria, which is characterized by distress and discomfort. People with gender dysphoria often want to live in accordance with their gender identity, and to that end, they may dress and act in ways that are associated with the gender with which they identify.
Gender dysphoria can affect transgender and gender-nonconforming people at any time in their life. However, not everyone is impacted. With or without medical intervention, some transgender and gender-nonconforming people feel at ease in their bodies. The discrepancy between how society perceives you and how you physically and emotionally feel can result in extreme distress, worry, and despair. Gender dysphoria was previously referred to as “gender identity disorder,” but it is not a mental illness. Studies demonstrate that if gender dysphoria persists throughout puberty, the young person will likely continue to feel this way. Their internal sense of gender is not a decision for them. It’s part of who they are, and they require professional and social assistance.
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Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria
- A desire to shed their birth-gender-assigned gender’s primary sex characteristics
- A wish to be regarded as if you were the other gender
- A desire to have their desired gender identity’s primary and secondary sex characteristics
- Their insistence on becoming a gender other than the one assigned to them at birth
- Preferences for positions that are both male and female
- A strong rejection of toys, games, and other items traditionally associated with their gender at birth.
- Dressing in clothes that are normally associated with the opposite gender
People who suffer from gender dysphoria may show a strong desire to be the opposite gender on a regular basis. They are frequently unhappy with their birth-assigned sex’s gender roles and gender expressions. Dressing as their preferred gender, playing with toys that are generally associated with the opposite gender, and rejecting many gender-stereotypical behaviors are examples of this.
Causes of Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria has no identified origin but it is thought to be caused by genes, hormonal influences in the womb, and environmental factors.
Adult-onset usually occurs between the ages of 20 and 30. Gender dysphoria usually manifests itself in one of two ways:
- The first is a continuation of gender dysphoria that began in infancy or early adolescence, usually in late adolescence or adulthood.
- The more overt indications of cross-gender identity, on the other hand, appear later and more gradually, with a clinical presentation in early to mid-adulthood.
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Risk Factors of Gender Dysphoria
Prenatal exposure to some chemicals has been linked to problems with the development of sex determination before birth. There is a higher shared incidence between identical twins than between fraternal twins, which suggests a genetic relationship. Gender dysphoria most commonly manifests in early childhood. While the specific mechanisms are unknown, we do know that children are assigned a sex based on their physical anatomy when they are born. The sex assigned to a child at birth has a significant impact on how they are reared and how others interact with them. They may begin to feel a mismatch between their gender identification and their ascribed sex as they get older. In some cases, this mismatch can lead to feelings of gender dysphoria.
Complications of Gender Dysphoria
Dysphoria, when combined with a lack of social support, can lead to mental distress and other problems. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, self-harm, and other mental health issues are some of the conditions connected with gender dysphoria. People with gender dysphoria have a higher risk of suicide than the overall population, according to research. Based on one study, 48.3% of people with gender dysphoria have had suicidal thoughts, and 23.8 percent have tried suicide at least once.
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Diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria is defined as a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and one’s assigned gender that lasts at least 6 months and is indicated by at least two of the following symptoms in adolescents and adults, according to the DSM-5:
- A significant misalignment between one’s expressed/experienced gender and primary and/or secondary sex traits.
- A strong desire to be free of one’s main and/or secondary sex traits due to a substantial inconsistency between one’s experienced/expressed gender and one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.
- A strong desire for the other gender’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.
- A strong yearning to be of the opposite gender.
- A strong desire to be treated as someone of the opposite gender.
- A strong belief that one shares the sentiments and reactions of the opposite gender.
The disorder must also be linked with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other relevant areas of functioning in order to meet diagnosis requirements.
Treatment of Gender Dysphoria
Individual and family counseling are indicated for children with gender dysphoria, while adults should seek individual and/or couples treatment. Hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery are alternatives, but they aren’t for everyone, and feelings of sadness may persist after treatment.
While some people are able to overcome distress on their own, psychotherapy is often quite beneficial in facilitating personal discovery and dealing with powerful emotions that may have arisen as a result of peer-related issues or societal stigma. Early diagnosis, a supportive environment, and comprehensive therapy that respects the individual’s needs and goals are connected with the best outcomes for persons with gender dysphoria.