Gender Dysphoria

Gender dysphoria, previously known as gender identity disorder, is a term that refers to the persistent and severe discomfort a person may experience due to a discrepancy between their biological sex and their gender identity. This feeling of discomfort or discontent may be so extreme that it increases their risk of mental health issues that could be detrimental to their daily life.

Although gender dysphoria typically develops in childhood, some individuals may not develop it until adolescence or much later. People with gender dysphoria may attempt to dress and act more like the gender they identify with to feel more comfortable with themselves. When people with gender dysphoria are stigmatized or rejected for expressing their realized gender, it can cause them great emotional and psychological distress.

Signs and Symptoms

Early-onset gender dysphoria often begins in childhood and persists through adolescence and adulthood, whereas late-onset gender dysphoria begins around puberty or much later in life. The manifestations of gender dysphoria vary with age. Adults who struggle with gender dysphoria exhibit symptoms like:

  • A discrepancy between the individual’s experienced/expressed gender and their primary or secondary sex features (breasts, underarm hair).
  • A strong desire to alter one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics to match their preferred gender identity.
  • A strong desire to be treated and identified as the other or alternate gender
  • A strong conviction that one possesses the typical emotions and responses of the other gender or alternate gender.
  • Preferences for roles other than those expected of their assigned gender at birth.

Individuals with gender dysphoria often experience mental health conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance use disorders

Daily living can be disrupted by gender dysphoria. Pressure to dress in a manner that is associated with the sex chosen at birth, as well as fear of harassment and teasing, can make it difficult for people with gender dysphoria to succeed in school or the workplace. Dropping out of school, losing a job, having trouble maintaining relationships, having low self-esteem, and having an increased risk of self-harm are all potential outcomes of gender dysphoria that interfere with daily functioning.


Multiple factors could play a role in developing gender dysphoria, although the precise causes remain unclear. Possible contributors include genetics, prenatal hormone exposure, and environmental factors. For example, some studies suggest that exposure to some chemicals during pregnancy can interfere with sex determination. The fact that there is a higher shared occurrence between sets of identical twins than between sets of fraternal twins suggests a genetic relationship, according to the available research.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Gender dysphoria is diagnosed in those who feel distressed or discontent with their biological gender for at least six months. For a diagnosis to be made, the individual must suffer clinically significant distress that significantly impairs critical areas of functioning, such as social interactions, academic performance, or daily activities.

Children with gender dysphoria may benefit from individual and family therapy, whereas adults may benefit more from individual, family, or couples therapy. While hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery can help some people, they are not for everyone, and some people may still feel unhappy even after undergoing these procedures.

While it’s true that some people can overcome their emotional struggles on their own, psychotherapy is frequently useful in bringing about the self-discovery that facilitates self-healing and in dealing with strong emotions that may have resulted from peer-related challenges or social stigma. Early diagnosis, a supportive environment, and comprehensive therapy that respects the wishes and desires of the individual relate to the best outcomes for those with gender dysphoria.

If you are interested in learning more about the treatment options available for gender dysphoria, please contact us at Turning Point Centers. Our trained clinicians can assist you in your self-discovery and self-healing process so you can live a happier, healthier life.

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