Gender dysphoria is the distress of gender identification. This is endured by those whose gender identity is at odds with their birth body aspects.
People experience it as physical pain and psychological and emotional distress. Social aspects are also key to the experience of gender dysphoria.
Depending on the appearance of the genitals, people gain biological sex at birth. Gender identity is the gender that individuals identify with or feel themselves to be.
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria happens when there is a conflict between the sex you were born to at birth and the gender you identify with. Also, this can cause serious distress, and it can make you feel uncomfortable with your body.
People with this condition may choose to change the way they express their gender. This could mean:
- Changing the way they look
- Social change (using pronouns and public bathrooms associated with their stated gender)
- Medical or surgical transition
- Or some combination
Gender dysphoria can cause teenagers and adults to experience:
- A marked difference in the inner gender identity and the main or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire to rid yourself of primary and secondary sex characteristics due to a marked difference in your inner gender identification
- A deep desire for the primary and secondary gender characteristics of the other gender
- A strong desire to be of the opposite gender or an alternative gender different from the assigned gender
- A strong desire to be treated as a different gender or as an alternative to the assigned gender
- Strong confidence that you have typical emotions and responses of the opposite gender, or an alternate gender, different from the given gender
- Serious distress or disability in social, educational, or other aspects of functioning
Gender dysphoria may begin in childhood and continue into adolescent years (early-onset). You might have periods in which you no longer feel gender dysphoria. And, at moments you may also feel a recurrence of it too. You can also have gender dysphoria at the time of puberty or even later in life (late-onset).
What causes gender dysphoria?
The actual cause of gender dysphoria is not clear. Gender formation is complex, and there are still aspects that are not well known or completely understood. It is not linked to sexual orientation. We classify people with gender dysphoria as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.
How common is gender dysphoria?
No one knows because not all people feel unease in their sexuality. Moreover, those who already identify as gender diverse don’t need or ask for help from the NHS.
The number of people diagnosed with the condition has grown significantly over the past decade. Furthermore, adult gender dysphoria programs in England referred to around 8,000 individuals in 2018/19.
Gender dysphoria also causes multiple complications, including pain, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, other risks or difficulties that people with gender dysphoria can face include:
- Discrimination. Many states and cities have passed laws to protect transgender people from discrimination. Not all of them, however.
- Victimization. Gender-free people are more likely to suffer hate crimes and abuse than the general public.
- Increased risk of suicide. Depression, sadness, and distress, often faced by individuals with gender dysphoria, can lead to self-harm. In the end, this will lead to suicide.
- Emotional and behavioral problems. Teasing and abuse is a common issue, especially for children and teenagers. As a result, this will lead to long-term mental health problems. Work with teachers and education professionals to discuss the child’s needs.
- Reduced health care access. People who want a transition will have difficulty obtaining health care to cover the procedure and follow-up.
Your health care provider may diagnose gender dysphoria based on:
- Behavioral health evaluation. Your provider will confirm the inconsistency in your gender identification and sex assigned at birth. Then, he will confirm your background and the development of gender dysphoric emotions. He will also look at the effect of gender non-compliance stigma on your mental health. Finally, he will evaluate what kind of support you have from your families, colleagues, and peers.
- DSM-5. Your mental health provider can use the gender dysphoria requirements set out. This is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association.
Gender dysphoria is different from not conforming to the behavior of gender roles. Gender dysphoria includes feelings of distress due to a strong desire to be of a different gender.
Gender dysphoria is not “treated” in the normal sense of the word. Treatment means that it will go away or ease up. This is not the case of gender dysphoria, nor is it the objective of treating gender dysphoria.
Instead, treatment centers help those with gender dysphoria to gain relief from the distress it causes. So many options are available for this purpose:
Many individuals with gender dysphoria are experiencing anxiety and depression. Self-harm habits can occur in severe cases. Mental health therapy can help people learn to deal with these feelings in a positive, assertive way.
- Puberty suppression
If a child is diagnosed with gender dysphoria, doctors can use medication to suppress hormones’ release. Excluding these hormones, the body will remain unchanged.
- Cross-sex hormones
Some individuals may wish to transfer to their experienced gender. Hormone therapy may begin this phase. Women can take testosterone supplements to promote hair growth, muscle production, and lower voice. Men can take estrogen to promote breast tissue development, fat redistribution, and facial changes.
- Gender confirmation surgery
Some people with gender dysphoria try to change their body so that it matches their experienced gender.
Gender transformation can be complex and challenging at any age. It is important to have a team of doctors and experts. The transition period is a mixture of physical and emotional changes. And the easiest way for people to deal with change is to have a team of people they can depend on and trust. This is especially important for children and teenagers because their peers may be less understanding and more sensitive to these changes.
The Bottom Line
Suppose a teenager is in distress due to his gender identity, mainly if bullied or ostracized. Then he is at an elevated risk of anxiety, depression and drug abuse, and suicide. A survey of transgender adolescents showed that more than 50 percent of transgender males and almost 30 percent of transgender females reported suicide attempts.