What is gender dysphoria?
The term “Gender Dysphoria” refers to the feeling of distress and discomfort that is experienced when the assigned gender does not match the person’s gender identification. People experiencing gender dysphoria may experience discomfort and distress as a result of the conflict between their physical body’s sexual characteristics and how they feel and think about themselves.
The traditional gender roles they are expected to perform may also cause them distress or discomfort.
People with different levels of gender dysphoria may experience different effects. Conflict can affect some people’s self-image and behaviors. Gender dysphoria can be coped with by changing how one’s expression, representation, or assignment of gender is expressed or represented in comparison to how it was assigned at birth. It can also be dealt with by making adjustments to one’s appearance.
In children experiencing gender dysphoria, they may express the desire to be the opposite gender, and they may insist on playing with toys, having hairstyles and dressing in clothing that are typical of the opposite gender.
Gender dysphoria is not common among all transgender individuals, but many transgenders, gender fluid, or gender non-conforming individuals do experience gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria symptoms
An individual may feel distressed or discomfort with their assigned gender if they suffer from gender dysphoria. Below are a few signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria:
- Rather than retaining their birth-assigned gender characteristics, they wish to shed them
- They want to be treated like the opposite gender
- They want to possess both primary and secondary sex characteristics representative of their preferred gender identity
- They insist on being a gender other than their birth-assigned one
- They prefer roles that cross gender lines
- Their birth-assigned gender is strongly rejected in terms of toys, games and other things
- It is also not acceptable to wear clothing of the opposite gender
It is not uncommon for people experiencing gender dysphoria to express that they wish they were the opposite gender. It is common for them to be unhappy with gender roles and gender expression of their birth-assigned sex. People may opt to wear clothing that corresponds to their preferred gender, play with toys typical of the opposite gender, or to reject many gender-stereotypical behaviors.
Dysphoria of gender is a disorder recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) since 2001. It was previously referred to as gender identity disorder in the DSM. As of 2013, calling it a disorder has been removed from the listing because of its stigma. In place of the previously used identity-based diagnosis approach, the DSM-5 takes a more descriptive approach that emphasizes the discomfort and distress that dysphoria causes.
In adolescents and adults
A person suffering from gender dysphoria must experience significant distress or impairments in important aspects of his or her life as an adolescent or adult. There must be feelings of awe and sadness that last for at least six months, along with two of the following:
- There is a significant discrepancy between the individual’s primary and secondary sex characteristics and their experience of gender
- Individuals desire to shed their primary and secondary sex characteristics
- In the desire to acquire characteristics of the primary or secondary sex of their experienced gender
- Desire to become that person
- Willing to be treated as the person they once were
- They believe their behavior, feelings, and reactions are characteristic of the gender they have experienced
Gender dysphoria can also affect children. Children who exhibit nonconforming behavior are not uncommon. Hence, it is crucial to distinguish between normal childhood actions and true gender dysphoria.
Impairment in functioning or significant distress must last for at least six months in children as well as adults. They must also suffer from 6 or more of the following symptoms:
- Having the desire to be the opposite gender or the insistence that they are the opposite gender
- As the opposite gender role, it is preferred that you play fantasy games or make-believe
- This includes choosing clothes typically associated with the opposing gender
- This includes choosing toys typical of the opposing gender
- Children should reject toys and activities associated with the gender they are assigned
- They should dislike the physical characteristics associated with their gender
- They should want to have the qualities associated with their gender identity
- Children of the opposite gender should prefer to play with each other
Children as young as four can exhibit signs of gender dysphoria. Once children reach puberty, they often experience more severe symptoms as they age.
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What causes gender dysphoria
There is no clear understanding of what causes gender dysphoria, but several factors may contribute. Environmental, genetic, and hormonal factors may influence prenatal development.
Exposure to certain chemicals before birth has been associated with disruptions in the determination of sex before birth, for instance. Furthermore, the prevalence of identical twins is higher than that of fraternal twins, indicating a genetic link.
Dysphoria of any kind often develops during early childhood. We know that physical characteristics are used to assign sex to newborns, though the exact mechanisms are unclear. Often, a child’s sex at birth determines their development and how they interact with others. The mismatch between a person’s gender identity and his/her assigned sex may become more apparent as they grow old. In some cases, gender mismatches may result in feelings of gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria treatment
There is no one size fits all treatment for gender dysphoria. Treatment is based on an individual’s needs and circumstances. In most cases, this service allows individuals to explore their gender identity under the guidance of a professional, usually by letting them express their gender as they perceive it to be internal. Depending on their gender identity, this may include dressing differently, using different names and pronouns, or changing their bodies physically.
Gender dysphoria treatment may include counseling, hormone therapy, and surgery for gender reassignment.
Gender dysphoria sufferers may prefer to undergo gender-affirming procedures and cross-sex hormone therapy. Body modifications can also help an individual’s outward appearance correspond to the person’s internal gender identity.
Two methods of achieving this are hormone therapy and surgery. However, treatment must be tailored to the specific needs and goals of the individual. Identifying with the gender with which you identify maybe a goal for some people. Some people wish to lessen only the secondary sex characteristics associated with their identities, such as facial hair and breasts.
However, it is important to realize that surgical surgery for gender affirmation may not be the right choice for everyone with gender dysphoria. It is expensive to undergo complete gender reassignment, and insurance rarely covers it. Certain people may find hormone therapy helpful, while others may decide to change their outward expressions and clothes to correspond with their internal sense of gender identity.
Gender dysphoria can sometimes be lessened or resolved by masculinizing and feminizing hormone therapy. People with underlying psychiatric conditions can become manic, hypomanic, or paranoid due to these hormones.
Some people can experience anxiety and depression if they are unable to take advantage of any of these steps. Psychiatry can be helpful in such situations so people feel more confident expressing their inner gender and improve their wellbeing.
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Counseling is sometimes beneficial only for assisting individuals in expressing their feelings more freely, affirming their identity, and enabling them to cope or reduce any feelings of distress. Partners, parents, and other family members may benefit from relationship or family counseling by better understanding what their loved one is going through. The individual will have greater social and peer support, creating an environment that is more affirming.
Individuals with gender dysphoria are not treated for their gender identity through psychological therapy. Rather, psychotherapy helps clients feel more comfortable expressing their gender and their identity.
It aims to lessen feelings of dysphoria and increase life satisfaction by reducing feelings of dysphoria. Usually, this is done by:
- Considering gender identities and expressions
- Dealing with stress in a healthy way
- Accepting yourself as you are
- Establishing a network of support
- Deciding which options to pursue
- Building relationships
Dysphoria can be reduced by therapy, as can the quality of life and well-being of people at any point in the process.
A person’s gender identity puts them and their families at greater risk of stigma and discrimination. The risk of being the victim of violence or bullying is also greater for those with gender dysphoria or who are transgender or gender nonconforming.
It may also be difficult for those who choose to undergo medical treatments, such as hormones or surgical procedures, to obtain proper healthcare coverage.
In many cases, mental distress and other issues are caused by feelings of dysphoria and a lack of social support. There are several disorders associated with gender dysphoria, such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse and self-harm.
The general population is at greater risk of suicide than those with gender dysphoria. In one study, 48.3% of participants who suffer from gender dysphoria reported having suicidal ideations, and 23.8% had attempted suicide.
How to cope with gender dysphoria
Typically, people who experience feelings of gender dysphoria are treated in a way that allows them to feel more comfortable with their gender identity. These strategies can also be helpful for people struggling with gender dysphoria:
- Find support: Join a support group and talk to others who have been through the same thing.
- Reduce discomfort: Reduce feelings of dysphoria by employing practices such as breast binding and genital tucking.
- Take care of yourself: Take care of your physical and emotional wellbeing, as well as doing things that make you feel good about yourself.
- Affirm who you are: Find small ways to affirm who you are. For example, you might wear certain accessories, change your hairstyle, or contact others using your preferred pronouns.
- Make future plans: Alternatively, people can pursue legal options to change gender and make such a change in social settings. Make a plan that will enable you to reach your long-term goals, regardless of whether those goals have to do with medical, social, or legal transitions.
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Gender identity vs. Sexual orientation
Gender identity and sexual orientation differences in many ways.
The term “gender identity” refers to an individual’s sense of gender, whether male, female, or nonbinary. An individual’s sexual orientation can be described as their emotional, physical, or romantic attraction towards another individual.
The difference between gender and sexuality is the person you are attracted to. Gender dysphoria can occur in people who are LGBTQ+, but having this condition does not indicate being gay, bisexual or lesbian.
There is no connection between gender dysphoria and sexual orientation. Gender dysphoria can affect people of any sexual orientation, including straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Transgender or gender-nonconforming people may also experience gender dysphoria. The point to remember is that not every transgender or gender-nonconforming person experiences gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria vs. Gender nonconformity
Not all gender nonconformity and gender dysphoria are the same. Behaviors and gender expressions that are nonconforming to a person’s birth-assigned gender are considered gender non-conforming. Mental illness is not linked to gender nonconformity.
Gender dysphoria can lead to people using pronouns that match their gender identity. In addition, the pronouns “they,” “them,” “their” may be more appropriate, since they are gender-neutral.
You should find solutions that will allow you to cope with your dysphoric feelings in the short term while you work toward your long-term goals. Covering or minimizing them might be one way to minimize or eliminate distressing sex characteristics. Identify the ways in which you can express the identity that feels right for you by taking some time to explore it.