Gender Dysphoria – Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

What is Gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a condition where an individual experiences significant distress due to the incongruence between their assigned gender at birth and their true gender identity. This distress can manifest in emotional, psychological, and social challenges, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and dissatisfaction with one’s body and social role. It is not a mental illness, but a valid and recognized aspect of human diversity. Those affected often seek relief by undergoing a social transition, hormone therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries to align their physical characteristics with their gender identity. Providing support and understanding to individuals experiencing gender dysphoria is crucial in promoting their well-being and creating a more inclusive and accepting society.

It is essential to recognize that gender dysphoria is a complex and individual experience. Each person’s journey is unique, and it is crucial to approach the topic with empathy and respect. Acknowledging and validating a person’s gender identity can have a profoundly positive impact on their mental health and overall well-being. Raising awareness about gender diversity and providing access to supportive resources and healthcare can help create a more inclusive and accepting environment for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria. By fostering understanding and compassion, we can work towards a society where everyone can freely express their true selves, regardless of their gender identity.

Types of Gender dysphoria

It can manifest in different ways, and its specific types can vary depending on factors like age and gender identity. Here are some common types are as follows:

Childhood Gender Dysphoria

This type refers to children who experience a marked incongruence between their assigned sex and gender identity. Children may express a strong desire to be of the opposite gender, dislike their own physical characteristics, and prefer activities typically associated with the opposite gender.

Adolescent Gender Dysphoria

Adolescents with this type experience significant distress due to the incongruence between their assigned sex and gender identity. This period of life can be particularly challenging as they navigate puberty and social pressures.

Adult Gender Dysphoria

This type involves adults who experience distress related to their gender identity. Some individuals may have been aware of their gender incongruence since childhood, while others may only recognize it later in life.

Binary Gender Dysphoria

This type refers to individuals who identify exclusively as male or female but experience distress due to the incongruence between their assigned sex and gender identity.

Non-Binary Gender Dysphoria

This type includes individuals who do not identify strictly as male or female but instead identify as non-binary or genderqueer. They may experience distress due to the incongruence between their assigned sex and non-binary gender identity.

Gender Dysphoria in Transgender Individuals

This type encompasses various individuals who have transitioned or are in the process of transitioning to align their physical characteristics and social role with their gender identity.

It’s essential to understand that each person’s experience with Gender Dysphoria is unique, and these types are not exhaustive. Additionally, not all individuals with Gender Dysphoria will fit neatly into these categories. The most crucial aspect is to provide understanding, support, and access to appropriate healthcare for individuals experiencing Gender Dysphoria, regardless of their specific type.


According to a sexual health study in 2017, the prevalence of self-reported transgender identity has increased over the past few decades, ranging from 0.5% to 1.3% in children, adolescents, and adults. Another analysis in 2016 found that 390 per 100,000 adults identified as transgender, and future surveys may show even higher numbers. In the United States, about 1.4 million individuals (0.6%) identify as transgender, but the true prevalence might be higher due to social stigma, and some may not participate in studies.

People with gender dysphoria often face mental health challenges. Studies show that substance use disorders are common, with around 28% reporting problems with substance use. Suicidal ideation affects about 48.3% of the population, and 23.8% have attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime, with no significant difference between male-to-female and female-to-male groups. Anxiety, depression, and personality disorders are also common comorbidities, with one study reporting that personality disorder was present in 52% of cases, with Cluster B personality disorder being the most common.


It is a complex condition with both biological and psychosocial factors at play.

The biological understanding suggests that multiple genes might contribute to the development of gender identity, making it an inherited trait. However, it is essential to recognize that gender is not strictly divided between male and female but exists on a spectrum, including cis-gender and transgender identities. Although studies have shown evidence of heritability, no specific genes have been identified for gender dysphoria so far.

On the psychosocial side, the development of gender identity in childhood can be influenced by interactions with parents and cultural norms. Traditional expectations often dictate how boys and girls should behave, which may impact how children identify with their gender. Children usually begin to recognize their gender between the ages of 3 to 5, but there can be variations. Cross-gender activities in children with gender dysphoria have been observed, and conflicts within the family dynamics can also contribute to the development of gender dysphoria.

Symptoms of Gender dysphoria

Symptoms can include feeling a strong sense of distress or discomfort with one’s assigned gender. Some signs that someone is experiencing gender dysphoria include:

  • A desire to no longer have the primary sex characteristics of their birth-assigned gender
  • A desire to be treated as the opposite gender
  • A desire to have the primary and secondary sex characteristics of their preferred gender identity
  • The insistence that they are a gender different from their birth-assigned sex
  • Preferences for roles that are different from those expected of their gender assigned at birth
  • Strong rejection of toys, games, and other things that are typically associated with their birth-assigned gender
  • Wearing clothing typically associated with the opposite gender

People who experience gender dysphoria may frequently express that they want to be the opposite gender. They often feel uncomfortable with the gender roles and gender expressions of their birth-assigned sex. This might manifest in behaviors such as dressing as their preferred gender, playing with toys typically associated with the opposite gender and rejecting many gender-stereotypical behaviors.

Gender dysphoria is not related to an individual’s sexual orientation. People who experience gender dysphoria may be straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual. People who feel gender dysphoria may also be gender-nonconforming or transgender. However, it is important to recognize that not everyone who is transgender or gender nonconforming experiences gender dysphoria.

Causes of Gender dysphoria

The exact causes are not fully understood, as it is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon. However, researchers believe that it may be influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, and social factors. Here are some potential factors that may contribute to Gender Dysphoria:

Biological Factors: Genes and hormones may influence gender identity development.

Brain Development: Differences in brain structure and function may be associated with Gender Dysphoria.

Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal factors during development could play a role.

Psychological Factors: The way individuals perceive their own gender identity can cause distress.

Social and Environmental Factors: Cultural norms and societal expectations about gender can impact how people express their identity.

Early Childhood Experiences: Some early experiences related to gender may contribute to Gender Dysphoria.

Remember, the causes are not fully understood, and each person’s experience is unique. Providing support and understanding is crucial for individuals dealing with Gender Dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria risk factors

The risk factors include:

  • Biological factors like genes and hormones may play a role.
  • Having a family member with gender dysphoria can increase the risk.
  • Early childhood experiences might signal gender identity incongruence.
  • Unsupportive social environments can worsen distress.
  • Pre-existing mental health conditions can interact with gender dysphoria.
  • Facing rejection or non-acceptance can lead to emotional struggles.
  • Lack of supportive friends or family adds to feelings of isolation.
  • Limited access to gender-affirming healthcare can be a hindrance.

Remember, every person’s journey is unique, and offering understanding and support is essential.

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Complications of Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria can lead to various complications, both psychological and social, for individuals experiencing it. Some of these complications may include:

  • Psychological Distress: Feeling sad, anxious, or having low self-esteem due to the mismatch between one’s gender identity and assigned sex.
  • Social Isolation: Facing rejection or bullying from others, leading to a lack of support and feelings of loneliness.
  • Impaired Mental Health: Increased risk of depression, self-harm, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Delayed or Avoided Healthcare: Fear of discrimination might prevent seeking appropriate medical care.
  • Substance Abuse: Some individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with distress.
  • Employment and Educational Challenges: Discrimination can affect career and education opportunities.
  • Body Dysmorphia: Feeling distressed about certain body parts that don’t align with gender identity.
  • Limited Healthcare Access: Some places may have restricted access to gender-affirming treatments.
  • Lack of Acceptance: Not being understood or accepted by others can be emotionally challenging.
  • Self-Identity Struggle: Confusion and internal conflicts about one’s true gender identity.

Supportive environments, understanding, and access to appropriate healthcare can help individuals with Gender Dysphoria lead healthier and happier lives.


The diagnosis involves a thorough evaluation by qualified healthcare professionals, typically experienced in dealing with gender identity issues. The diagnostic process may include the following steps:

  1. Evaluation: Talk to a qualified healthcare professional experienced in gender identity issues.
  2. Discuss Feelings: Share feelings and experiences related to gender identity and assigned sex.
  3. Diagnostic Criteria: The healthcare professional will check if the distress meets the criteria for Gender Dysphoria.
  4. Duration: The feelings of gender dysphoria should have been present for at least six months.
  5. Rule out Others: Make sure other possible causes of distress are ruled out, like body dysmorphia or unrelated mental health conditions.
  6. Consider Social Support: Assess the person’s support system, as it can impact well-being.
  7. Be Supportive: Approach the diagnosis with sensitivity and respect, focusing on understanding the person’s needs.
  8. Personalized Plan: Develop a personalized treatment plan, which may include counseling, gender-affirming medical interventions, and social support.

The diagnosis aims to support the person’s well-being and provide appropriate care, respecting their unique experiences and feelings.


The treatment aims to alleviate the distress and discomfort related to the incongruence between an individual’s gender identity and assigned sex. The treatment approach can vary depending on the person’s age, individual preferences, and specific needs. Some common treatments include:

Mental Health Support

Counseling or therapy with mental health professionals experienced in gender identity issues can be beneficial. It provides a safe space for individuals to explore their feelings, cope with distress, and make informed decisions about their gender identity.

Social Transition

For some individuals, a social transition may be appropriate. This involves adopting a name, pronouns, and presentation (such as clothing and hairstyle) that align with their gender identity. Social transitions can provide a sense of validation and reduce distress.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be prescribed for individuals seeking physical changes to align their bodies with their gender identity. For example, transgender women may receive estrogen, and transgender men may receive testosterone. HRT can result in various physical changes, such as breast development or facial hair growth.

Gender-Affirming Surgeries

Some individuals may choose to undergo gender-affirming surgeries to alter specific physical characteristics to better align with their gender identity. These surgeries may include procedures like mastectomy (breast removal) or vaginoplasty (vaginal construction).

Supportive Care

Providing a supportive and inclusive environment can significantly impact the well-being of individuals with Gender Dysphoria. This includes respecting their gender identity, using their preferred names and pronouns, and being understanding and non-judgmental.

Family and Social Support

Family support can be crucial for individuals with Gender Dysphoria. Encouraging understanding and open communication can help build a supportive network.

Advocacy and Education

Raising awareness and promoting education about gender diversity can help reduce stigma and discrimination, improving the overall well-being of individuals with Gender Dysphoria.

It’s essential to approach the treatment process with a person-centered approach, respecting the individual’s autonomy and choices regarding their gender identity and treatment options. Treatment decisions are highly individual and should be made collaboratively between the individual, healthcare providers, and mental health professionals.

Prevention of Gender dysphoria

Educate about Gender Diversity: Teach about different gender identities to promote understanding and acceptance.

Create Supportive Environments: Be inclusive and respectful of everyone’s gender identity in schools, workplaces, and communities.

Support Children and Adolescents: Validate and support kids exploring their gender identity.

Raise Mental Health Awareness: Encourage seeking help for mental health, including Gender Dysphoria-related distress.

Ensure Access to Healthcare: Provide gender-affirming healthcare and mental health services.

Advocate for Anti-Discrimination Laws: Support laws that protect transgender and gender non-conforming individuals from discrimination.

Support Families: Offer resources and support to families of individuals with Gender Dysphoria.

Encourage Peer Support: Create groups for individuals to connect and support each other.

Promote Positive Media Representation: Advocate for accurate and respectful media portrayals of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.

Sensitivity Training: Train professionals to provide informed and respectful care for those with Gender Dysphoria.

By implementing these measures, we can create a more accepting and supportive society for individuals with Gender Dysphoria.

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