How Do I Know If I Have Gender Dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a clinical term for a condition in which someone who is so unhappy with the gender with which they were born that they long to live life as a member of the opposite sex. It is not just a matter of a boy wanting to live life as a girl or vice versa; it is a more serious desire which, if ignored, can cause tremendous psychological and emotional pain for the individual and for their loved ones.

Now considered as much if not more of a medical condition than a mental issue, the tools and methods used to diagnose and treat gender dysphoria include not only psychological counseling, but also hormonal therapy and sexual reassignment surgery. 

What is Gender Dysphoria?

According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, gender dysphoria “is a condition in which there is a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender he or she identifies with.” Put even more simply, it is case where “a person who is physically a boy may actually feel and act like a girl.” As MedlinePlus makes abundantly clear, gender dysphoria is “not the same as homosexuality,” and that this discontent may be brought about by genetic, hormonal or other medical issues, and that numerous “social and environmental factors” may be involved. In short, notes MedlinePlus “the cause of gender dysphoria is unknown.”

What are its Symptoms in Children?

Many children are confused by and question their sexuality. Signs of what was previously and is still often referred to as Gender Identity Disorder, however, can appear at an early age. Young children and teenagers who fantasize, wish or even believe that they will change their sex when they reach adulthood may be showing symptoms of gender dysphoria. Voicing or acting out these desires can often lead to their being shunned by friends, peers and even family member, and those who continue to vocalize or act out these desires may indeed be showing signs of gender dysphoria. Children and teens who say they are sickened or disgusted by their genitals may also be suffering from severe discontent with their gender.

How is Gender Dysphoria Manifested in Adults?

Adults often manifest many of the same symptoms that arise in children and teens who may be suffering from gender dysphoria. Dressing or living as a person of the opposite sex need not necessarily occur, but can also be a sign that this discontent with their gender is so severe as to qualify as gender dysphoria. Adults who are so disgusted by their genitals that they mutilate themselves or express a strong desire to have them altered or removed are considered strong candidates for this condition. Depression, anxiety and avoidance or withdrawal from social interactions are often associated with those who suffer or believe they may suffer from gender dysphoria.

What Treatments are Recommended for Gender Dysphoria?

Medical professionals recommend that those who believe or are concerned that they may suffer from gender dysphoria undergo at least two years of counseling and therapy before a firm diagnosis is delivered. According to MedlinePlus, children in particular should undergo both individual and family therapy and married partners should consider couples therapy. The goal of such therapy and counseling is to discover the individual’s true feelings – not to change them. It is not the job of psychologists, psychiatrists and other medical professionals to talk people out of the desire to change their gender or alter their lifestyle should they choose to live as person of the opposite sex.

Times are Changing: Medical Professionals “More Supportive” for Gender Dysphoria Patients

As a study by Kevan Wylie, which appeared in 2008 in Mental Health Family Medicine explains, this course of therapy is instead a journey of discovery, and one that can help the individual deal with the anxiety and stress of his or her situation, the answer to which may be medical treatment such as hormone therapy or sexual reassignment surgery. Although until recently there was a negative stigma attached to those who suffered from this condition, as Wylie, a noted consultant in sexual medicine notes, things have changed and “new standards of care” have been set for those who suffer from gender dysphoria. “Modern physicians and psychiatrists are much less concerned about the classification, but rather look towards providing supportive and appropriate clinical services. As such,” continues Wylie, “many psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists are now much more supportive than has been the traditional experience of trans people in the past.”