Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person suffers from discomfort with his or her assigned gender (physical or biological sex). Gender dysphoria is not only identifying with a different gender. It is the internal conflict that causes distress for an affected person.
Not everyone who identifies with a different gender will experience distress or discomfort. Those who suffer from stress, anxiety and discomfort regarding their gender identity are appropriate for diagnosis.
People with gender dysphoria struggle to feel comfortable with gender-specific expectations for behavior. This distress will have a significant impact on day-to-day functioning (emotional issues, socialization skills, relationship skills, mental health, etc.).
It is important to understand the distinction between:
- Someone who does not conform to social expectations of their assigned gender; and
- Someone who suffers from significant distress with regard to his or her own gender identity.
Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria
Symptoms of gender dysphoria will persist for at least 6 months. Depending on the age of the client, certain symptoms may or may not be present.
Gender dysphoria is diagnosable for children, adolescents and adults. Each condition will exhibit characteristics based on the client’s age.
Symptoms for gender dysphoria include:
- Discomfort or difficulty identifying with assigned gender
- Struggling to fit in with gender role
- Dressing in a way that is not considered reflective of their assigned gender
- Fantasizing or pretending to be the opposite gender
- Particularly seen in children
- A strong discomfort, rejection or disdain for their sexual anatomy, biology or physiology
- Can be particularly distressing during puberty and throughout adulthood
- Significant impairment in major areas of functioning
- Academics, socializing, relationships, career, personal life, family dynamics, etc.
- A desire or preference to be addressed as another gender
- Portraying characteristics of another gender
- Difficulty with coming out to friends and family
- Significant concern or distress about social reaction to patient’s gender identity
- Confusion about preference for gender characteristics
- A strong desire to be treated as another gender
- A strong desire to become another gender
- Difficulty establishing, managing or maintaining relationships as a result of gender identity
Causes of Gender Dysphoria
Studies have found promising evidence for potential causes of gender dysphoria. Two major potential causes of gender dysphoria include:
- Transference and balance of sex hormones during fetal development.
- An imbalance or deficiency of sex hormones during the onset of puberty or during adulthood.
- Rejection, neglect or abuse from a parent, guardian, or other adult family member can cause a person to reject the patient’s assigned gender. This can be partially due to a desire to become someone else in order to cope.
- Social peer rejection can contribute to the onset of gender dysphoria. If peers of the same gender reject a child, he or she may reject his or her own assigned gender. In turn, the child will seek friendships and identify with the opposite gender.
Treatment Options for Gender Dysphoria
The first step to finding relief from the stress that comes gender dysphoria is to seek counseling. With counseling, a patient can begin their journey toward understanding their gender identity.
Then, he or she can discuss the best course of action for mental health with a licensed professional. This licensed professional will be able to coordinate care with:
- Other medical professionals.
People who seek counseling for gender dysphoria may also choose to seek support in:
- Peer support groups
- Couples counseling
- Family counseling