Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that can occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.
Transgender and gender-diverse individuals may experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives, but some feel at ease with their bodies with or without medical intervention.
The diagnosis of gender dysphoria is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to help individuals with gender dysphoria access necessary healthcare and effective treatment. The term focuses on discomfort as the problem, rather than identity.
Gender dysphoria may cause adolescents and adults to experience a marked difference between their inner gender identity and their assigned gender for at least six months. This difference is characterized by at least two of the following:
Gender dysphoria may also cause significant distress that affects how individuals function in social situations, at work or school, and in other areas of life.
Gender dysphoria may start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. Some individuals may experience periods in which they no longer experience gender dysphoria. It can also emerge around the time of puberty or much later in life.
Gender dysphoria can affect various aspects of life, including daily activities. Individuals experiencing gender dysphoria might face difficulty at school due to pressure to conform to the gender associated with their sex assigned at birth or out of fear of harassment or teasing.
If gender dysphoria impairs the ability to function at school or work, it may lead to school dropout or unemployment. Relationship difficulties are common, and individuals may also experience anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, substance misuse, and other problems.
People with gender dysphoria often experience discrimination, resulting in stress. Accessing healthcare and mental health services can be challenging due to fear of stigma and a lack of experienced care providers.
Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria without gender-affirming treatment might be at risk of contemplating or attempting suicide.
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Healthcare providers may diagnose gender dysphoria based on:
Gender dysphoria is distinct from simply not conforming to stereotypical gender role behavior. It involves distress due to a strong, pervasive desire to be another gender.
Treatment for gender dysphoria aims to explore gender identity and find a gender role that brings comfort and eases distress. Treatment options should be individualized as what works for one person may not be suitable for another.
Treatment options may include:
A behavioral health evaluation may not always be required before receiving hormonal and surgical treatment of gender dysphoria, but it can play an important role in making treatment decisions.
Other ways to ease gender dysphoria may involve various methods, such as peer support groups, voice and communication therapy, hair removal or transplantation, and more. Coping and support for gender dysphoria can be enhanced through supportive environments, knowledge about treatment options, and social support from family, friends, and peers.
Other options for support include mental health care, support groups, prioritizing self-care, meditation or prayer, and getting involved in the community through volunteering.
Before your appointment, prepare a list of your symptoms, personal information, all medications and supplements you take, and any questions you have for your healthcare provider.