Gender dysphoria refers to a condition where a person may feel severe discomfort about the gender and sex assigned at the time of birth. Sex refers to the physical attributes of a person related to their reproductive organs, based on which the category of ‘male’ or ‘female’ is assigned at birth. Gender refers to the social system that is based on assumptions about roles and characteristics which are perceived as masculine or feminine.
Transgender people typically experience this condition at some point during their lifetime. In severe cases of gender dysphoria an individual may wish to be rid of the physical sex attributes to redefine their identity.
To clarify, identifying with a different gender than the one assigned at birth is not a mental disorder. It is only when an individual experiences severe discomfort and significant distress leading to difficulties to function normally in their daily lives, they are considered as having gender dysphoria disorder.
Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT
Review Date: 3/1/2023
No specific causes are known for gender dysphoria however it has been observed that they are commonly reported by affected children between the ages of 2 – 4 years, although most of them no longer report it when they reach adolescence. Adults and young adults may experience gender dysphoria during puberty or early adulthood.
Research shows that all babies start out with female sex chromosomes (X) inherited from the mother, and only after the eighth week of pregnancy the father’s contribution of chromosomes become active. If the father’s contributions are Y chromosomes the testosterone and other male hormones makes it a male. There are several causes that could create gender identity differences after birth.
If the hormones that are supposed to trigger the development of sex and gender during pregnancy do not function correctly this could lead to a difference between how they relate to their sex versus their gender, which could be a factor leading to gender dysphoria.
Exposure to drugs during pregnancy that may enhance progesterone or other estrogen related hormones may have an influence on gender based identity
In some rare cases, babies may be born with both male and female sex parts which may create a crisis in gender identity
Gender confirmation surgery is offered to patients with intersex conditions after they grow up and choose their own gender.
Hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery are options for those with severe cases of gender dysphoria however they are not guaranteed to cure the distress.
Therapy and family counseling are the most recommended options to help understand and overcome symptoms of distress and learn to manage their emotions in social settings.
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