Less than one percent of the U.S. population has some degree of Gender Dysphoria, with strong, persistent feelings of identification with the opposite gender. Some have discomfort with one’s own assigned sex and may struggle with gender identity issues such as social anxiety, depression, distress, body image issues, and in some cases, multiple personality disorder.
Living with Gender Dysphoria is manageable and it is possible to optimize overall quality of life by participating in therapy that focuses on emotional struggles that can transpire for transgender, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people. Individual and family counseling is recommended for children, and individual or couples therapy is recommended for adults.
Identity issues may manifest in a variety of different ways, and the amount of research available has only scratched the surface on whether Gender Dysphoria is related to any hormone imbalances that occurred in the womb.
Having a desire to live as members of the opposite sex, and often dress and use mannerisms associated with that, has been referred to as Gender Identity Disorder in the past.
Younger boys and girls with Gender Dysphoria often become socially isolated and are often ostracized and teased for who they are, which can contribute to low self-esteem and may lead to school aversion or even dropping out. Children manifest coexisting separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and symptoms of depression, while adolescents are particularly at risk for depression and suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. In the early transition of a new sexual role, they may feel more comfortable in situations that lessen gender distress and are often preoccupied with appearance.
Adults who struggle to identify sexually also display anxiety and depressive symptoms. Research evaluations at adult gender clinics report personality disorders are more common among males than among females.
For transgender people, the process of confronting cultural expectations of gender expression and how they fit with what is natural for them is intensely complex, challenging, and stressful. Many engage in behaviors designed to protect them from the stigma, harassment, and discrimination associated with being a minority group, including a lack of spontaneous expression and social engagement. They also face practical challenges, such as deciding which restroom to use, traveling with a passport, and setting expectations with others about preferred names and pronouns. This technique is effective for clients who undergo surgical interventions or just choose to take hormones to help those with Gender Dysphoria to feel more congruent.
Psychologists who provide collaborative care for sexually and gender diverse clients can play a vital role in helping ease the mental anguish that can occur. Therapists will begin a series of sessions by evaluating mental and physical health and quality of life, and gauge whether their clients are dealing with any stress as a direct result of being a minority. Its results and a therapist’s level of education will often intertwine with teaching their clients to validate their emotions, have realistic expectations in forming relationships, and guide them toward being able to find similarities between gender identity and expression.
If you'd like to talk to someone about gender identity, please contact us.