Gender Dysphoria

What is Gender Dysphoria?

Gender Dysphoria is when an individual does not identify with the gender that he or she was born. A male at birth identifies as a woman and a woman at birth identifies as a male (APA, 2013).

Gender Dysphoria is formally known as gender identity disorder. It is very important to be aware that just because you may reject the gender you were born with that you do not have a MENTAL DISORDER (APA, 2013).

People with Gender Dysphoria feel as if they are trapped in the wrong body and want to live life as the opposite gender. Some may feel as if they want to remove their genitals (NLM, 2014).

Often, people live with Gender Dysphoria and are too afraid to express it or receive treatment as they are afraid of what others may think (Wylie et al., 2014)

What causes Gender Dysphoria?

The cause of Gender Dysphoria is not 100% known.

Biological Theories:

  • Exposure to unusual hormone levels - hormones later in life influence the development of brain structures that are involved in sexuality
  • Female to Male - "Dysphoria has been associated with hormonal disorders resulting in prenatal exposure to high levels of androgen" (NLM, 2014)
  • Male to Female - "Dysphoria has been associated with prenatal exposure to very low levels of androgen's" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).
  • "A cluster of cells in the hypothalamus called the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, which plays a role in sexual behavior, has been implicated in Gender Dysphoria" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Psychological Theories:
  • Parents play a big role in Gender Dysphoria
  • Often parents encourage a child to play with gender "appropriate" toys and wear "gender appropriate clothing" and punish anything that is not "gender appropriate" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Boys play with boy toys and girls play with girl toys and wear dresses.
  • Some parents do not push a child to identify either way and let them do as they feel comfortable.
  • One study showed that boys with Gender Dysphoria "found that their parents were less likely than the parents of boys without Gender Dysphoria to discourage cross gender behaviors" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014)- these boys did not receive punishment if they played with girl toys or wore dresses.
  • Also, boys that were more feminine sometimes had mothers that wished for girls, and treated their sons as girls.
  • Some of these boys also had no father in the home or are closer with their mothers (NLM, 2014).
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Treatment Options

"Persons experiencing Gender Dysphoria need a diagnostic term that protects their access to care and won't be used against them in social, occupational, or legal issues" (APA, 2013)

If you or your child may be experiencing any gender concerns you should contact your healthcare provider.

Self medication is common for fear of shame if someone goes for treatment. Psychologists or Psychiatrists can help aid in appropriate treatments.

"Treatment must be patient-centered and should recognize the individual's preferences, needs and circumstances" (Wylie et al., 2014)

Family therapy is good for children that are experiencing gender issues and will create a support system for the child (NLM, 2014)

Individual psychotherapy can help you identify with a gender. Many living with Gender Dysphoria may also be living with mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety and professional help may help them. If you are struggling with the decision to transition to the opposite gender, the support from a therapist will benefit you greatly (Wylie et al., 2014)

Adolescents may receive hormone blocking interventions when they are going through puberty (Wylie et al., 2014).

Cross sex hormone therapy "stimulates the development of secondary sex characteristics of the birth sex" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Male to female is given estrogen and female to male is given testosterone (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Estrogen will stop the normal growth of a beard, soften the skin and cause fatty deposits to breasts and hips (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Testosterone will deepen the female voice, stop the fatty tissues from growing, and enlarge muscles (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Sex reassignment surgery (controversial) requires a person to live full time as the opposite gender for a year or more before surgery (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). Over a period of two years, a series of surgeries and hormone treatments are given (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

-Male to Female- the penis is removed and the testicles, the tissue is used to create a vagina (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

-Female to Male - this process is harder, the internal organs (ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus) are removed, breast tissue is also removed (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014). "The urethra is rerouted through the enlarged clitoris or an artificial penis and scrotum are constructed from tissue taken from other parts of the body. This penis allows urination while standing but cannot achieve a natural erection" (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2014).

Where to find treatment?

If you are living with Gender Dysphoria or your child is experiencing these symptoms it is important you see the RIGHT help.

You can contact your health care provider and they can refer you to a mental health specialist. Psychiatrists, Social Workers, Psychologists, and Counselors are a good place to seek help.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Gender Dysphoria. Retrieved from

Hoeksema, S. (2014). Abnormal psychology (Sixth ed.). New York, New York: McGraw-Hill.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2014). Gender Dysphoria. Retrieved from

Wylie, K., Barrett, J., Besser, M., Bouman, W. P., Bridgman, M., Clayton, A., & ... Thornton, J. (2014). Good Practice Guidelines for the Assessment and Treatment of Adults with Gender Dysphoria. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 29(2), 154-214 61p. doi:10.1080/14681994.2014.883353