What is Gender Dysphoria? Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Gender dysphoria, previously referred to as Gender Identity Disorder, is a condition which can bring serious pain to individuals.

People with gender dysphoria feel uncomfortable in their own bodies. They may have a strong desire to change their sexual characteristics to look more like the other sex.

Too many individuals overlook the importance of their mental and struggle with dysphoria in silence. This leads to an increased risk of suicide, further mental disorders, and a drop in quality of life.

However, there are ways to overcome dysphoria and live a fulfilling life. Many transgender individuals seek affirmative care, such as hormone treatment.

Before you do that, though, it is good to understand your dysphoric emotions.

In this article, we will cover what gender dysphoria is and how you can overcome it.

What is Gender Dysphoria? Definition & Meaning

Gender dysphoria describes the negative emotions (fear, anger, disgust, etc.) associated with the misalignment between an individual’s sex at birth and their gender identity. Those that experience this misalignment are called transgender.

Some of the most intense dysphoria individuals feel is typically around their physical sex characteristics, including breast, genitalia, and so on.

Other body parts which look masculine/feminine could also bring a trans person dysphoria. For example, a transgender man may feel dysphoria after seeing his less muscular arms or clean beard.

A transgender woman could feel dysphoria when noticing her hair grow back quickly or her lack of breasts. In order to feel less dysphoria, individuals may want to take several courses of action.

They may wish to pick out a name that aligns with their identity. Others choose to socially transition first. This involves changing whether one wears feminine clothing or masculine clothing, the way they speak, and so on.

After speaking to a mental health professional, some transgender people choose to take hormone therapy or get gender confirmation surgery.

Children with gender dysphoria typically get puberty blockers (which are reversible) first. This helps ease the individual’s persistent distress.

List of Most Common Causes of Gender Dysphoria

There are many different causes for gender dysphoria. For some, it stems from their childhood. Others may realize that their dysphoric feelings come from relationships they had.

Yet others feel their gender dysphoria started when they were adolescents, adults, or even older. It differs for each individual. You can take the gender dysphoria assessment to find out.

However, the most common causes of gender dysphoria include:

  • Genetics – Some individuals theorize that gender dysphoria is passed down genetically. And, there seems to be some truth to this theory. Some data has shown that when genetically similar twins have higher rates of gender dysphoria than adopted twins or fraternal twins.
  • Hormonal distinctions – Hormones play a crucial role in one’s life, especially during prenatal development. There, your body undergoes ‘hormone washes’ which determine your primary sex characteristics. For transgender individuals, there could be have been flaws in this hormone wash.
  • Puberty – Puberty is the time when most transgender individuals become even more affirmed in their identity. It also, unfortunately, means transgender people feel the most dysphoria during adolescence. It becomes easier to categorize people into genders at this age, due to the development of secondary sex characteristics.
  • Parental relationships – For some individuals, their gender identity stems from their family relationship. Although it is rare, some individuals feel they need to fill a role in their family, and they must change their gender to fit this role. For instance, the absence of a father could make young girls who wish to help their mother more likely act masculine, and eventually, even identify as male.
  • Romantic relationships – Some transgender individuals were previously gay or lesbian. Butch lesbians may find that ‘female’ no longer suits them after experimenting with their sexuality. Likewise, a very feminine gay man may not longer feel he identifies male after deep thought and life experience.
  • Emotional regulation and happiness – Ultimately, transgender individuals identify with the opposite sex for one primary reason: to find happiness and be themself. As such, they are willing to accept some of the dysphoria that comes along with changing one’s sex if it means greater happiness.

Signs and Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria

There are some “typical feelings” associated with gender dysphoria. However, it is also important to keep in mind that every individual’s symptoms vary.

This is especially true depending on age and culture. In general, though, one of the most common symptoms of gender dysphoria is a strong desire to change your body to align with the opposite gender’s body.

For example, many transgender individuals feel strong negative emotions about their breasts, genitalia, facial hair, muscle mass, and so on. In addition to this, individuals usually also have a desire to be seen as the opposite gender by society.

For a transgender child, this may be shown by them joining the boy’s line when lining up (even though they are assigned female at birth) or insisting on being called ‘she’ (even though they are born male at birth).

The way one reacts and experiences emotions is different for people with gender dysphoria. They may try (or naturally have) their emotions/reacts align with the stereotypical reactions of the other sex.

Men are typically more stoic and less emotional, as are trans men. Women may be more nurturing and tender, as are trans women.

There are some negative signs that could indicate gender dysphoria, too. The psychological distress caused by this condition could lead to being ostracized.

In addition, many transgender individuals experience low levels of self-esteem, depression, anxiety, neglecting themselves, and even self-harm.

Can Gender Dysphoria Be Dangerous And What Are Risk Factors

Gender dysphoria is a condition that can bring severe distress to individuals. As such, it should be taken seriously to avoid very negative consequences, such as an increased risk of depression, anxiety, mental health conditions, and even suicide.

Additional negative consequences of gender dysphoria include:

  • Those who live with gender dysphoria can have gender-related distress present in their daily lives. This could negatively impact their self-esteem, productivity, passion, and virtually every element of their life.
  • It can lead to social ostracism and loneliness, too. All in all, it can hurt both your career and your personal life, too. If the stress continues and develops into depression, it can even impact your physical health.
  • Suicide rates increase. Social ostracism is one of the primary factors which drive suicide rates up in transgender individuals. They are often discriminated against.
  • Nihilism and neglect. Over time, this feeling could make transgender people stop caring about what was once important to them, and fall into a deep depression.
  • Self-harm and depression. Even without suicide attempts, many transgender people participate in self-harm as a result of dysphoria and discrimination.

How to Prevent & Overcome Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria can lead to serious struggles, as described above. As such, many individuals try everything they can to overcome dysphoria. The approach to healing is different for every individual.

Some people find that medical interventions, such as hormones and surgery, are necessary for happiness. Others are satisfied through social and legal transition only. The key is to find what works for you.

Typically, affirmative care is the best way to proceed and overcome dysphoric thoughts. You should get a therapist and medical team to speak with.

Tell them your symptoms and be honest about your struggles as well as what you wish to gain from treatment. They will recommend different approaches based on your needs.

As for preventing gender dysphoria, there is no way to deny who you truly are. If you are transgender, there is no reason to think negatively of yourself or try to change your identity. It has been shown repeatedly that conversion therapy does not work.

Parents of transgender or gender non-conforming individuals should also not seek to change their child’s identity. Instead, it is crucial to prevent additional stress and negative thoughts.

Provide a supportive environment to the child. Affirm their identity and work together with the child when transitioning. It is always a great idea to find a therapist and medical professional to help you understand your child’s unique needs.

Instead of changing your identity, you should seek to ease your stress. Once again, the best way to do this is through affirmative care. Start by slowly incorporating more clothing of the opposite sex into your wardrobe.

If you feel safe, ask your coworkers, friends, and/or family members to use different pronouns. Choose a new name, if you would like. This should ease some of your stress while you await further medical intervention.

If interested, take a look at the top free personality assessments.

Gender Dysphoria FAQ

What are the signs of gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria presents differently in each individual. To get a diagnosis for gender dysphoria, you would need to seek medical intervention. In general, though, those with a strong desire to change their primary and secondary sex characteristics likely have gender dysphoria. If a person has a desire for sex characteristics of the opposite sex, this is a sign of dysphoria.

Those who insist to be called masculine/feline names, used a specific set of pronouns, or act in a way that is stereotypically associated with the opposite sex may have gender dysphoria and be transgender. Dysphoria also brings a plethora of negative consequences to look for as signs.

Transgender people may be depressed, have anxiety, have low self-esteem, be socially ostracized, be lonely, and so on as a result of their dysphoria.

What is a gender dysphoria example?

Gender dysphoria is a condition that presents itself differently depending on the individual. However, one way that dysphoria is commonly expressed is through a strong desire to have the genitalia and physical appearance of the opposite sex. An insistence to act masculine or feminine and be referred to in masculine or feminine ways (whichever is the opposite of their birth sex) is another example of dysphoria.

Trans male child, they may have a strong dislike for dolls and prefer to be referred as he, join the boy’s line in school, play football, dress in a masculine way, and so on. A trans female would likely reject masculine wear and prefer skirts and dresses, play with stereotypically feminine toys, want to be referred as she, and so on.

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