Gender dysphoria is when a person's body and gender or sense of self are inconsistent, and it often causes discomfort and anguish. People who experience gender dysphoria endure prejudice and victimization, which can make them more susceptible to mental health issues. However, treatment can help with self-acceptance, boosting confidence, and better managing symptoms related to depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions.
What is gender dysphoria?
For most people, there is congruity between their biological birth sex and gender identity but those with gender dysphoria struggle with the incongruity between these two aspects. This gender incongruity is not the problem but the perceived discrepancy between gender identity and biological sex results in substantial distress or incapacity.
Instead of concentrating on the presence of gender incongruity, the goal of diagnosis and treatment is to address the person's pain. Anxiety, depression, and agitation are frequently present during times of emotional and mental suffering related to gender dysphoria.
What are the symptoms of gender dysphoria?
Both adults and children can suffer from gender dysphoria. Age-related symptoms can vary, but the majority of people wish to live in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.
Children and Adolescents
Children can start showing signs of gender dysphoria from as young as three years old.
- They may demonstrate a reference to cross-dressing.
- Assert that they are of a different sex.
- Engage in the stereotypical games and activities associated with the other sex
- Possess displeasure for their genitalia.
Only a small percentage of children who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria continue to experience it as adults. There continues to be controversy and debate on assisting prepubescent children with gender dysphoria with their social and medical transition.
Although the majority of adults who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria exhibit early symptoms or feel different as children, some indicators do not appear until adulthood.
- Have a strong desire to be a different gender by possessing its physical and sexual traits
- They want to be treated based on their gender identity not birth sex.
- Overall, they strongly identify with the other gender and act in ways that reflect that identity.
- Emotional suffering and anguish, which can affect one's ability to perform well cognitively and socially, and in all spheres of life.
- They may experience anxiety, depression, and in many cases, suicidal thoughts.
What are the causes of gender dysphoria?
Numerous well-known causes have been shown to contribute to gender dysphoria or cause someone to reject their own sex. These elements are intricate, frequently coexist, and are connected.
Mental and biological
It was previously believed to be a psychiatric issue, which is a mental illness. There is now proof that the disease may not only have its origins in the brain. Research indicates gender dysphoria may have biological roots related to the formation of gender identity prior to birth. Before the reasons for gender dysphoria may be fully understood, more studies are required.
Biological sex develops while in the mother’s womb. The DNA and gene-containing chromosomes define the anatomical sex of an individual. Each individual has two sex chromosomes: one of each inherited by the father and the mother. The development timeline of these chromosomes and chromosomal abnormalities during pregnancy may play a part in gender dysphoria.
Hormones that initiate sex development in the womb may not function effectively and results in a fetus’s oversensitivity or insensitivity to the hormones. Exposure to progesterone or other estrogenic drugs as a fetus is also thought to increase the risk of gender dysphoria.
There may be rare conditions like congenital adrenal hyperplasia, and intersex conditions (hermaphroditism) which may also result in gender dysphoria. It is also thought that gender identity issues can be caused by inappropriate or inadequate human bonding and child raising.
Is there treatment for gender dysphoria?
If gender nonconforming conduct does not involve contemporaneous psychological discomfort or functional impairment, treatment may not be necessary. When treatment is necessary, it focuses more on easing patients' distress and assisting them in adjusting to it than it does on trying to convince them to change who they are.
Obtaining hormones and/or gender reassignment surgery that will complement their physical appearance to their felt gender identity is another reason for getting treatment. When the condition is recognized and therapists adhere to ethical criteria for treatment, the combination of psychotherapy, hormone therapy that affirms gender identity, and gender surgery may be helpful.
Challenges or complications when treating gender dysphoria
Accessing adequate healthcare and insurance coverage for their treatment may be problematic for those who opt for medical treatments like hormone therapy or gender surgery.
Lack of social support and distressed feelings might lead to mental health problems, substance abuse, or self-harm.
Concerns exist regarding the potential dangers of long-term use of transgender hormones. This must be discussed in-depth with your doctor.
With sex reassignment surgery, as with any surgical operation, problems are possible. Before you agree to the operation, your surgeon should go over the risks and restrictions of the procedure with you.
How to support people with gender dysphoria?
Treatment for gender dysphoria aims to give patients the freedom to live out their desired gender identities. Depending on the person, this can signify different things to kids, teens, and adults. However, a lot of people who struggle with gender identity issues also deal with despair, anxiety, and distress brought on by social isolation and discrimination.
People who identify as transgender can and do lead fulfilling lives. When those close to them are supportive, caring, and encouraging, this is significantly easier. When a person is not supported or accepted by friends and family, when they are criticized or bullied, it can be mentally and emotionally damaging.
- Be respectful if someone tells you they are transgender. Although it could take you some time to adjust to the change, they are still the same person you know and love, and they are most in need of your acceptance. When they relate their experience, hear them out and pay careful attention.
- When they encounter criticism and hatred in the wider world, stand with them.
- Recognize that receiving gender-affirming care, including medical procedures, is often the only option to overcome gender dysphoria.
- Be supportive of their decisions.