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Evidence-Based Ways to Deal With Gender Dysphoria

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Gender dysphoria and transgender health are topics that often come up in the media, but aren't always portrayed with respect and the appropriate evidence. For this reason, there are often many questions around gender identity disorder, biological sex, and how to deal with gender dysphoria. In this article, we'll share what gender dysphoria is, gender dysphoria symptoms, the differences between biological sex and gender identity, and how medical care and a mental health professional can help bridge the gap.

What is Gender Dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is a condition that typically begins in childhood, but can also occur later in adulthood and involves a feeling of gender incongruence: a mismatch between one's sex assigned at birth, and their gender identity. This mismatch can cause psychological distress and anxiety.

Clinical Presentation and Diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria

As with other mental disorders, gender dysphoria can present with a number of symptoms, but to be diagnosed, they must align with the criteria laid out in the latest diagnostic and statistical manual (DSM-5). Gender dysphoria symptoms include:

  • A difference between secondary sex characteristics and gender identity
  • A strong desire to either get rid of or prevent the arrival of secondary sex characteristics because they do not align with gender identity
  • A strong desire for the secondary gender characteristics of another gender
  • Feels strong desire to be identified as another gender

To be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, the patient must have had these feelings for at least six months.

Challenges With Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria can negatively impact different aspects of life. For adolescents, bullying and harassment at school can cause anxiety, academic problems, and depression. The individual may also feel that they have to conform to gender standards to move around in their world to avoid emotional or physical harm, which can lead to co-occurring mental disorders like anxiety or depression. Adults may face the same sort of challenges in their professional and social environments.

Discrimination and stigma, as well as a lack of experienced health and mental health care services, can also mean that those with gender dysphoria may have difficulty with relationships, and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms like substance use, self-harm, eating disorders, and other negative behaviors.

Without gender affirming treatment options, young people or adults with gender dysphoria are at greater risk for suicidal ideation or completion.

Treatment for Children and Young People

There are many similarities between gender affirming treatment options for young people and adults. However, starting these treatments early can help build self-esteem, self-image, and potentially avoid some of the more difficult feelings that can develop if left to struggle on their own.

Behavioral Health Treatment

Working with an experienced mental health professional as a parent can teach you how to best allow your child to explore gender expression and gender identity in a way that makes them feel loved, safe, and heard.

Remember what you like about your body.

Self worth and self esteem can be essential to transgender health. When a child feels that they are the wrong gender, it can be easy to develop poor self image. Take time to find parts of yourself that you do celebrate.

Acknowledge and honor what you're feeling.

Gender dysphoria can feel far more overwhelming when you are trying to repress it. If possible, find trusted family and friends who can understand what you're feeling and will affirm your gender. Online communities can also be helpful places of connection for trans women and men.

Puberty blockers and gender-affirming hormones.

Hormone therapy can also help with addressing gender identity. Hormone suppression through puberty blockers prevents secondary sex characteristics from developing during the teenage years, and makes it easier for the young person to match their outside to their inside. When they reach adulthood, they can then continue hormone therapy with a medical professional to develop secondary sex characteristics that match their gender identity.

Treatment for Adults With Gender Dysphoria

The mental health care aspect of transgender health should also be a part of adult care, but there are different options available when you become an adult.

Changes in gender expression and role.

For those who may not have had the support of their parents in younger life (or had not experienced feelings of gender dysphoria until adulthood), it can be important to make changes in how you interact with the world. Adopting different pronouns, legally changing your name (if wanted), and informing friends and family of these changes.

Some may take part in therapies such as voice therapy (to lower or heighten the tone and timbre of the voice), or movement therapy (to move in a way that is more in alignment with their preferred gender). Finding clothes that fit your gender and style can also bring joy into your life.

Hormone Therapy for Adults

Older adolescents and adults can use hormone therapy (estrogen and testosterone) to shift their body into alignment with their gender identity. Hormone therapy is not recommended for children or young adolescents, but they are cleared to use puberty blockers until of age for hormone therapy.

Non-Operative Treatment: Psychosocial Therapy

Therapy can be an important part of the process for trans or gender nonconforming people, as long as they are working with an affirming practitioner who has experience with gender identity issues and gender dysphoria. A gender affirming therapist works across a spectrum, you don't need to identify as transgender or be diagnosed under the diagnostic and statistical manual to benefit.

Surgery For Adults

In adulthood, surgical procedures are an option to bring their gender identity and sex characteristics into alignment. Gender affirming surgery may be essential to the mental health of trans women and men. Feeling as if you're in the wrong body can cause distress, and surgical treatment can greatly help with feelings of gender incongruence and lead to feelings of gender euphoria. Gender euphoria is the opposite of gender dysphoria, and is when a person feels right in their body.

Connect with People Who Understand

Finding social connections that make you feel welcome can be essential. Chosen family, meet up groups, friends, and other support systems can play an important role in feeling a part of a community. This is important for anyone, but for people with gender dysphoria who may have dealt with rejection from previous family members and friends, it can be life-changing.

Hormone therapy, surgical procedures, behavioral health, and community are all ways to deal with gender dysphoria and gender identity in a positive way. Comprehensive care is the way to go, and according to the American Psychiatric Association and the World Professional Association for Trans Health, talk therapy can be helpful at all stages of the process for healing from gender dysphoria.

Support for Gender Dysphoria in Brooklyn

Gender dysphoria can feel isolating. When your assigned gender doesn't match who you are inside, it can lead to negative feelings. However, affirming care can help trans women, trans men, and nonbinary people, and lead to improved self esteem and well being.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group, our team of doctoral-level psychotherapists offer gender affirming care that can set you on a more positive path, from gender dysphoria to gender euphoria.

Give us a call today, and our patient coordinator will help you find the right Brooklyn therapist to offer the tools to help you love who you are and support you through your journey, whether it involves hormone therapy, surgical treatment, or anything in between. 

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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