Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics. For example, you may have been assigned a male sex at birth but feel that you are female, or vice versa. Or, you may believe yourself to be neither sex, or something in between or fluid. Those who are transgender and gender-nonconforming might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. This disconnect between how society views you and how you feel physically and mentally can cause severe distress, anxiety, and depression.
Gender dysphoria might start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. The symptoms experienced by the different age groups may differ.
Symptoms in kids
- Insisting on the gender that differs from one that was assigned at birth
- Wanting to wear the clothing of the gender with which they identify
- Strongly preferring friends of the gender with which they identify
- Strongly preferring toys, activities, and games typically associated with the gender with which they identify
- Strong desire for sex characteristics, such as breasts or penis, that match their gender identity
Symptoms for teens/adults
- Certainty that their gender doesn’t match with their physical body
- Deep urge to have the sex characteristics of the gender with which they identify
- Strong want to be a different gender
- Strong desire to be treated as a different gender
The exact causes of gender dysphoria are not completely understood, but several different factors may play a role:
- Hormonal influences during prenatal development
- Environmental factors
Coping with feelings of gender dysphoria typically involves treatment that focuses on helping people feel more comfortable with their gender identity. Some other strategies that can help people cope with feelings of gender dysphoria include:
✽ Finding support
Try joining a support group and talking to peers who have had similar experiences.
✽ Reducing discomfort
Utilize practices such as breast binding or genital tucking to minimize physical characteristics that contribute to feelings of dysphoria.
✽ Caring for yourself
Prioritizing self-care and emotional wellness, including doing things that make you feel good about yourself and your body.
✽ Affirming your identity
Try doing small things that will help affirm your gender identity. This might include wearing certain accessories, changing your hairstyle, or asking others to refer to you by your preferred pronouns.
✽ Planning for the future
People may also opt to pursue legal options to transition to their desired gender as well as transitioning in social settings. Research the steps and make a plan that will help you work toward your long-term goals.
Treatment for gender dysphoria focuses on helping individuals deal with their feelings regarding their gender identity. It does not aim to change their gender identity or convince them that they should be the gender they were assigned at birth.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is commonly used to treat gender dysphoria. DBT helps the child understand that their emotions are normal and helps them learn skills for dealing with them and feeling better about themselves.
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