Psychotherapy for persons with gender dysphoria is often extremely helpful in bringing about personal discovery. An experienced therapist would facilitate self-comfort and support you to deal with strong emotions that may have resulted from peer-related challenges or social stigma.
The best outcomes for persons with gender dysphoria are associated with early diagnosis, a supportive environment, and comprehensive treatment that respects the wishes and desires of the individual.
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Looking for a specialist?
Get matched with a gender dysphoria therapist.
While it can be hard to find a good therapist close by for a one-to-one session, online therapy with an experienced therapist is an equally effective option. Specialised therapists at PrideCounseling.com can provide you with the guidance and support that you need during this important time in your life. Pride Counseling offers private, affordable online counselling when you need it from licensed, board-accredited therapists.
What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender Dysphoria refers to the psychological distress or a feeling of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and restlessness that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. You may be experiencing persistent feelings of identification with another gender and discomfort with your own gender and sex, that were assigned at birth. Although gender dysphoria often begins in childhood, some people may not experience it until after puberty or much later.
People with gender dysphoria often desire to live in accordance with their gender identity and may dress and use mannerisms associated with the gender with which they identify.
People who are transgender may pursue different ways of gender affirmation, as these are highly personal and individual decisions. A person with female sex characteristics, for example, may privately identify as a man, but may continue to publicly present themselves as a woman. Another may choose to dress in clothes associated with the gender with which they identify, while yet another may seek hormone treatment or surgery as part of a transition to living full-time as the gender with which they identify.
Each of these individuals may or may not experience significant feelings of distress or impairment because of their gender identity concerns. Therefore, not all transgender or gender diverse people experience dysphoria.
Gender identity incongruence and the feelings of distress that indicate gender dysphoria can be present in children, adolescents, or adults, and can manifest differently across age groups.
Adults with gender dysphoria typically feel uncomfortable being regarded by others as their assigned gender and often desire to be rid of the physical sex characteristics associated with it.
What can cause Gender Dysphoria?
The causes of gender dysphoria are currently unknown, but genes, hormonal influences in the womb, and environmental factors are all suspected to be involved. Studies suggest that gender dysphoria may have biological causes associated with the development of gender identity before birth.
Gender dysphoria has been reported across many countries and cultures, and incongruences between sex and gender have existed in human society for thousands of years.
Identifying with a gender different from the one that was assigned is no longer considered a mental disorder. Diverse gender expressions, much like diverse gender identities, are also not indications of a mental disorder.
Looking for a specialist?
Get matched with a gender dysphoria therapist.
What are the symptoms of Gender Dysphoria at different ages?
Cross-gender behaviours can begin as early as 2 years old, which is the start of the developmental period in which children begin expressing gendered behaviours and interests. Early-onset gender dysphoria typically starts in childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood; late-onset gender dysphoria, on the other hand, occurs around puberty or much later in life.
If your feelings of gender dysphoria began in childhood, you may now have a much clearer sense of your gender identity and how you want to deal with it.
However, you may also find out that the feelings you had at a younger age disappear over time and you feel at ease with your biological sex. Or you may find you identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The way gender dysphoria affects teenagers and adults is different to children. You may feel:
• certain that your gender identity conflicts with your biological sex
• comfortable only when in the gender role of your preferred gender identity (may include non-binary)
• a strong desire to hide or be rid of physical signs of your biological sex, such as breasts or facial hair
• a strong dislike of the genitals of your biological sex
You may feel lonely or isolated from others. You may also face pressure from friends, classmates or workmates, or family to behave in a certain way. Or you may face bullying and harassment for being different.
Having or suppressing these feelings affects your emotional and psychological wellbeing.
Why is your mental health important during this time?
Due to feelings of distress and stigma, many individuals with gender dysphoria become socially isolated—whether by choice or through ostracism—which can contribute to low self-esteem and may lead to school aversion or even dropping out, or problems at the workplace.
In some cases of gender dysphoria, the disturbance can be so pervasive that an individual’s mental life revolves around activities that lessen gender-related distress. They may be preoccupied with their appearance, especially prior to or early in a formal gender transition. Relationships with family members may also be seriously impaired, particularly where family members hold negative or stigmatising views about transgender or gender non-conforming individuals.
Suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and substance-related disorders are relatively common among those experiencing gender dysphoria. After gender transition occurs, suicide risk may dissipate or persist, depending on the adjustment of the individual. Children with gender dysphoria may manifest coexisting separation anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, or symptoms of depression. Adults may display anxiety and depressive symptoms as well.
How to pick your gender dysphoria therapist?
You may be experiencing significant distress due to gender dysphoria. You will do much better in a supportive environment, where you can express your gender in the way that is most comfortable for you. You will also be helped with the knowledge that, if necessary, treatments exist to reduce the sense of incongruence that you feel.
Support for people with gender dysphoria may include open-ended exploration of their feelings and experiences of gender identity and expression, without the therapist having any pre-defined gender identity or expression outcome defined as preferable to another. Psychological attempts to force a transgender person to be cisgender (sometimes referred to as “gender identity conversion therapy”) are considered unethical and illegal.
Many people turn to online therapy for gender dysphoria. Specialised therapists at PrideCounseling.com can provide you with the guidance and support that you need during this important time in your life. They offers private, affordable online counselling when you need it from licensed, board-accredited therapists. The online counselling and therapy services are provided through web-based interaction as well as phone and text communication. Feel free to get in touch with us and we will match you with the best therapist to support and guide you.
Writer for Therapy Hunter as well as psychology
professor at Malta University.