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Gender Dysphoria Counseling and Treatment

Gender Dysphoria Counseling and Treatment

Is it possible to feel being in the wrong body and it should have been different? The answer is yes. It is possible Gender Dysphoria can be stressful and make you feel uncomfortable and own your body. But the support and solutions are becoming more significant and possible than before.

There is an increase in the acceptance of different genders and identities like gays, lesbians, asexual, etc. The new legislation and laws are supporting and creating opportunities to come out as transgender easier than before. In this section, we will cover some of the aspects of gender dysphoria to help you understand it better and find ways to feel better.

What Is It and When Does It Start?

Gender Dysphoria is a condition that makes one feel distressed, anxious, and uncomfortable being the gender they identified physically and feels conflicted. You may be born as male sex but you feel more yourself as a female and vice-versa. Or you may feel yourself to be neither as well and something between two or fluid.

Gender dysphoria is known as gender incongruence or gender identity disorder. But, gender incongruence is not a mental illness. It is a condition that causes you to feel severe distress, anxiety, or depression and face a hard time accepting oneself in the same identity as you were born in.

If you are experiencing persistent distress, anxiety, and discomfort over your gender that lasts 6 months or longer than that. Then you may be struggling with a gender identity disorder.

Transgender Children

  • In transgender children, some of the common symptoms of gender identity disorder are when
  • They strongly desire to be a gender than their birth gender
  • They strongly desire to wear and dress up like the gender they identify themselves
  • They strongly insist on using the pronouns of the gender they identify as
  • Want to play cross-gender roles during play or believe.
  • Have a strong feeling of getting rid of the genitals they are born with

Transgender children or adults present themselves as the gender they believe in. But it is not a mental health illness. But the distress from it may cause other mental health conditions like anxiety, panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, eating disorder, schizophrenia, or even suicide.

Pursuing Gender Affirmation

Individuals who have gender incongruence may want to pursue multiple elements of gender affirmations including social, legal, medical, surgical affirmations like changing one’s name and pronouns, changing the gender identity on legal documents issued by the government, genital reconstructions, etc.

However, not all people will be pursuing all the domains of gender affirmation but possibly one or more than one domain in order to feel being complete and oneself.

Identity vs. Expression

Gender identity is a person’s inner feeling and sense of being a specific gender or both, or something different or in between, or no gender at all as well. This may not relate to the gender they are by birth. It can be different.

While gender expression is a person’s outward act that may or may not correspond to their gender identity. Gender expression involves how one carries oneself like dressing up, grooming, voice/speech/tone, communication manners, and so on.

Sexual Orientation

Sexual orientation explains the types of individuals toward whom they are attracted and have emotional, physical, or romantic feelings.

Identity, expression, and orientation are different terminologies that explain some of the aspects of the LGBTQ+ to understand it better. They might sound similar but they are different.

The Importance of LGBTQ Mental Health

Everyone has a gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. And the people who have a different gender identity/expression and sexual orientation are recognized under the LGBTQ+ group. It is important to understand that identifying a person as LGBTQ+ is not a sign of mental illness. But they are humans like anyone else and so their life's challenges are more or less similar to other groups of people.

Being LGBTQ+ is not a mental health condition. But many may experience mental health concerns and struggles. Anyone with any age group can struggle with mental health issues. Like anyone can have physical illness regardless of who they are, where they live etc. Similarly, anyone can suffer from a mental health condition. The feeling of distress and discomfort causes LGBT people to suffer from mental health issues like depression, anxiety, etc.

However, there are many negative stereotypes and stigmas about being LGBT people which makes it difficult for many to come out and embrace their identity. When they try to openly accept who they are, they face the potential of judgment and rejection from their families, friends, peers and cause the feeling of loneliness. It causes them severe anxiety and panic to try again to come out as they feel they will not be accepted by society. All of these thoughts and feelings cause mental health conditions.

This is why it is important to eradicate these stigmas and stereotypes and help and support LGBT people to feel more confident and encouraged to own their identity and reduce the chances of mental health issues.

The Physical Symptoms and Diagnosis

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) explains the gender dysphoria diagnosis individually for different age groups (children, teens/adolescents, adults). The diagnosis of gender dysphoria is based on the difference between one’s expressed and experienced gender identity and their biological sex by birth. The distress and discomfort caused by gender dysphoria create problems and challenges for one in their daily life, relationships, and social lives. Also, the symptoms and criteria one must be experiencing for at least 6 months or longer period in order to be identified as struggling with a gender identity disorder. Some of the symptoms that are considered in the diagnosis are:

  • They strongly desire to be a gender than their birth gender
  • They strongly desire to wear and dress up like the gender they identify themselves
  • They strongly insist on using the pronouns of the gender they identify as
  • Want to play cross-gender roles during play or believe.
  • Have a strong feeling of getting rid of the genitals they are born with

It causes one to experience physical symptoms like insomnia, no appetite (which may cause eating disorder), weaker immune system, body aches, stomach aches, headaches, etc. The persistent distress and discomfort cause mental health struggles too and in turn, it impacts the physical well-being of the person due to the mental health condition they are struggling with.

Dealing with Challenges and Complications

There are many challenges and complications because of the multifaceted aspects of gender dysphoria. The most common assumptions to treat it are surgical or hormonal treatments. But they are not the only ways to deal with it. There are other ways in which one can try and lead a happy and contented life.

Treatment for gender dysphoria is based on one’s unique individual needs. It allows them to embrace their gender identity, express it and help them take care of themselves in accepting who they are. There are various ways that range and vary from psychotherapy, counseling, to involve hormone therapy, medical options, support groups, etc.

Some may take Medical Options which involve medical treatments like hormone therapy, surgical and medical procedures for cross-sex hormones, and gender affirmations. However again, some may want partial or some may prefer complete transformation which may involve all the domains of gender affirmations.

However, an important point to consider is that it is only an option, not a compulsion because of the high cost involved in it and many times not covered by insurance and those who are not able to take this route may experience increased psychological distress. In such cases, psychotherapy which can either be online therapy or offline may help people feel more comfortable embracing and accepting their identity and reduce the psychological stress to improve their overall well-being.

Some may want to take only the Psychotherapy option. Under this one can reach out to trained mental health professionals like therapists, counselors, to talk about their challenges and problems and get help and support to affirm their identity, feelings, and take steps to cope up with the distress and discomfort feelings. It helps them to improve their relationships with their partners, parents, friends, colleagues, and loved ones. This helps them to gain more social and peer support which allows them to lead a joyful and fulfilling life.