Gender dysphoria is a feeling of distress or discomfort experienced by persons whose gender identity does not match with the sex they were assigned at birth.
For instance, someone who has a vagina and has the physical traits of a woman may feel that they are male. This can cause anxiety, depression, and restlessness.
Transgender people and gender-nonconforming persons may experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. However, not everyone experiences it. Most trans people are gender-nonconforming and are happy with their body images with or without medical procedures.
Gender dysphoria is a condition listed in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), a guide printed by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental health.
Previously, gender dysphoria was known as gender identity disorder. The current term is meant to be more illustrative than the previous one. The term gender dysphoria focuses on someone’s distress as a problem rather than identity.
Effects of gender dysphoria may differ from one person to the other. For some individuals, this discomfort may affect their self-image and character. A person experiencing this condition may cope with the feelings of distress by adjusting their gender expression, representation, and in some cases, by changing the gender assigned at birth.
Children with gender dysphoria may demonstrate their urge to be the opposite gender by insisting on some kind of toys, color, clothing, and hairstyles associated with their preferred gender.
Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria
Here are symptoms indicating a person may be experiencing gender dysphoria:
- Wish to be treated as the opposite gender
- No longer desire to poses the primary sex characteristics of the sex they were assigned at birth
- insisting on belonging to the opposite gender
- Showing primary and secondary characteristics of the preferred gender
- The desire to play opposite gender roles
- Declining toys and games associated with the gender assigned at birth
- Desire to wear clothes associated with the preferred gender
Most people with gender dysphoria demonstrate the desire to be recognized as the opposite gender. They are uncomfortable while playing roles associated with the birth-assigned gender. They change how they are “supposed” to dress or behave, and instead, they act like the opposite gender.
Gender Dysphoria- Diagnosis in Adolescent and Adults
For an adult or adolescent to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, one must show clinical distress in work, social, or other critical areas of life. The distress must last for more than six months and be accompanied by at least two of the following:
- A desire to get rid of primary and secondary characteristics of the birth-assigned gender
- A desire to be identified as their experienced gender
- A strong belief that they behave and feel as their experienced gender
- An urge to be their experienced gender
Diagnosis in Children
Children can also experience gender dysphoria. As a parent, you should be keen to differentiate between childhood behavior and possible gender dysphoria.
As with adults and adolescents, children must show impairments in functioning and discomfort for more than six months. The distress must also be accompanied by at least six of the following symptoms:
- Preferring to socialize with kids of the opposite gender
- Insisting to be recognized as the opposite gender
- Preferring toys that are associated with the opposite gender
- Showing dislike to their physical sex characteristics
- Insisting on wearing clothes associated with the opposite gender
- Dislike to the toys stereotypically associated with their birth-assigned sex
- Preference of playing roles of the opposite gender during fantasy games
Fortunately, with treatment, people experiencing gender dysphoria can explore their gender identities and find the gender role that makes them feel comfortable. However, the treatment should be individualized. What works for someone may not work on someone else. The treatment options may include therapy, surgery, behavioral therapy, among others.
Medical treatment for people with this condition may include:
- Hormone therapy such as feminizing hormone therapy and masculine hormone therapy
- Surgery, for instance, to change internal or external genitalia, among others
Some individuals use hormone therapy to change how they look. For example, some would like to get rid of facial hair and breasts and be more muscular, while others need to have breasts and fewer muscles. Treatment is based on one’s goals based on underlying health issues and the social and economic status of the patient.
Looking to learn more about available medical treatments? Here are some informative articles on procedures and surgeries to get you started.
Behavioral Health Treatment
This treatment does not alter the patient’s gender identity. It helps them to explore their gender concerns and lowering gender dysphoria. Its goal is to ensure gender-nonconforming people live a life free of anxiety and depression by enhancing success in relationships, social life, and work.
Therapy may help you;
- Accept yourself
- Build a support network
- Explore your gender identity
- Be comfortable expressing your gender
- Explore healthy sexuality during the transition
- Upgrade your quality of life
- Address your mental and emotional challenges
Other ways to ease the condition may include:
- Aesthetic services, such as wardrobe consultation
- Breast binding
- Breast padding
- Voice therapy to help develop vocal characteristics of your experienced gender
- Genital tucking
- Social and community services to deal with issues affecting the minority groups
Supporting Someone Experiencing Gender Dysphoria
Gender dysphoria can be eased by a supportive environment and knowledge on treatments that can reduce the difference between the preferred gender and the birth-assigned gender.
Support from family and friends can help minimize the cases of suicidal thoughts, attempts, anxiety, or depression.
Other working support options may include:
- Prioritize self-care: Get enough sleep, eat a well-balanced diet, and exercise.
- Get involved: Volunteer in organizations such as LGBTQ+ support group
- Maintain your mental health: If you feel anxious or depressed, seek a mental health specialist before the matter gets out of hand
- Seek out support groups: Talk to other LGBTQ+ members and share your fears with them. This will make you understand what to do next, and you will be at ease to know that you are not alone in this.
Gender- nonconforming persons are at greater risk of stigmatization and discrimination. To avoid such cases, you should create a supportive environment to explore and find a gender they feel comfortable with.