Gender Dysphoria

Do You Have It?

What is Gender Dysphoria?

According to the sixth edition of Abnormal Psychology, Gender Dysphoria is a disorder in which an individuals biological sex does not match their gender identity. (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014) An example of this could be a person who was biologically a male, but has felt as though they were meant to be born a female and that their true gender better aligns with the opposite sex. People with this disorder may begin to dress as the opposite sex, to match their gender. This was formerly called gender identity disorder, but was updated in the DSM-5. (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014)

What are some symptoms of Gender Dysphoria?

According to the DSM-5 these are some symptoms of Gender Dysphoria;

1. A clear difference between the assigned sex and gender expression of a person.

2. A strong urge to remove ones assigned sex characteristics, because they don't align with the gender a person identifies with.

3. An intense urge to possess the opposite gender's sexual characteristics.

4. A strong yearning to be the other gender.

5. The want to be treated as the opposite gender.

6. The feeling that your thoughts and actions better reflect the opposite gender better than your assigned gender. (DSM5.org, 2014)

If you have any two of the above symptoms lasting for over 6 months, you might have Gender Dysphoria.

Possible Causes of Gender Dysphoria

There is no known specific cause of gender dysphoria, but there is some speculation as to why it can occur, there is strong evidence to support biological or genetic factors on this disorder. Some doctors believe this disorder has to do with prenatal brain development, more specifically the level of hormones a fetus is exposed to; "which influence later gender identity and sexual orientation by influencing the development of brain structures involved in sexuality." (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014) Biological females who have Gender Dysphoria are often exposed to high levels of androgens in the womb, and biological males with Gender Dysphoria are often exposed to low levels of androgens. (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014) The hypothalamus could factor into Gender Dysphoria too, it contains a cluster of cells called the bed nucleus, this cluster has to do with sexual behavior, "studies have found that this cluster of cells is half as large in men with Gender Dyshporia as in men without the disorder and close to the size usually found in women's brains." (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014) Parents and other people who are around a child as they grow up can also influence how a person views gender seem to also factor in to gender dysphoria as well, but less concrete research has been done into that area.
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Methods of Treatment

Many people who have Gender Dysphoria have found therapy to be a beneficial treatment, it can help a person figure out their gender identity better, and also help with interpersonal relationships. Along with traditional therapy there are three specific types of therapy for people with gender dysphoria; "(1) cross-sex hormone therapy, (2) full-time real-time experience in the desired gender role, and (3) sex reassignment surgery, which provides the genitalia and secondary sex characteristics." (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014) According to the National Library of Medicine, before undergoing sex reassessment surgery, a person will have to be under a therapist care and receiving treatment for two years. (nlm.nih.gov, 2014) These therapies will help a person transition their body to fit their gender identity, and will likely allow them to live a happier and more fulfilling life, if you or a person you know has been having symptoms of this disorder the time to speak with your doctor is now, "diagnosing and treating this disorder early can reduce the chance of depression, emotional distress, and suicide." (nlm.nih.gov, 2014) The sooner you seek help the better someone will be able to help you.

Myths and Misconceptions

Myth-If someone has Gender Dysphoria they are homosexual. Fact- "Gender dysphoria is not the same as homosexuality." (nlm.nih.gov, 2014)

Myth- Gender is the same as biological assigned sex. Fact- Gender is how a person views themselves as male or female, a persons biological assigned sex is determined by what sex organs they are born with such as ovaries or testes. (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014)

Myth- Gender Dysphoria and transvestic disorder are the same. Fact- A person with transvestic disorder usually does not wish to change their gender, but dresses in the opposite sex clothing to become sexually aroused. A person with gender dysphoria does not dress in opposite sex clothing because it sexually arouses them, they do so because their gender aligns better with the opposite sex and they wish to become that. (Nolen-Hokesema, 2014)

Possible questions for your doctor

1. Have you ever treated someone with gender dysphoria before, if not could you refer someone?

2. How long until a diagnosis can be made?

3. What are the side effects of treatment?

4. If surgery were done, how long does it take to recover?

5. How to start the legal process of changing you gender

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Helpful Resources

HRC.org -Human Rights Campaign

Goaffirmations.org - LGBTQ Community Center and Resource Center

Equalitymi.org - Michigan's LGBTQ Advocacy Group

Transgendermichigan.org - Transgender Advocacy and Resource Center

References

American Psychiatric Association . (2013). Gender Dysphoria. In DSM-5. Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.dsm5.org/documents/gender%20dysphoria%20fact%20sheet.pdf

Gender Dysphoria. (2014, February 24). In National Library of Medicine . Retrieved September 15, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001527.htm

Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (2014) (Abnormal psychology (6th ed.) New York, N.Y. McGraw-hill

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