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What Is Gender Dysphoria?

What Is Gender Dysphoria?
What Is Gender Dysphoria?

What Is Gender Dysphoria?

“Transgender” refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth does not align with their gender identity or their psychological perception of their gender. Individuals who are transgender may experience “gender dysphoria,” a term that refers to the psychological distress that results from the confusion between sex and gender identity.

Gender dysphoria often begins in childhood, but some individuals may not experience it until they reach adolescence.

Gender Identity vs. Gender Expression

As previously mentioned, gender identity is one’s interpretation of their gender. Gender expression, however, is the way that one presents their gender to the world. For example, wearing a dress may be considered a “feminine” gender expression. Wearing a suit may be considered a “masculine” gender expression. These gender definitions are culturally defined and may vary throughout time. Gender expression does not necessarily have to align with gender identity. An individual can wear stereotypical “feminine” clothes but still identify as a male.

Gender identity and expression also differ from sexual orientation, which is defined as the types of people that one is sexually attracted to. Individuals can have a diverse range of sexual orientations.

Diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria

Now that we understand the concepts related to gender dysphoria, let’s talk about the specific diagnosis. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines gender dysphoria as the incongruence between one’s experience and expression of gender, and their assigned gender. It is important to note that just because gender dysphoria has a label of being a mental disorder, that does not mean there is anything wrong with the individual who has the diagnosis. The reason that gender dysphoria is in the DSM-5 is because individuals usually suffer from significant emotional distress and impairment in social, occupational, and other forms of functioning.

Certain criteria to obtain the diagnosis are as follows: a strong desire to be treated as the other gender, a strong desire to be rid of one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics, and a strong conviction that one has typical feelings and reactions of the other gender.


Individuals with gender dysphoria may find comfort in seeking professional help and support. Therapists will work on exploring one’s personal feelings towards their identify and expression. Affirmations are also effective with treatment progress. Social affirmations can include adapting specific pronouns, names, and various gender expressions that relate to the individual’s gender identity.

Legal affirmations may be officially changing names and pronouns on government documents. Medical affirmations may include surgical procedures and hormone treatments. Engaging with these various affirmations may help the individual with confidence and feeling like their most authentic self.


There is a lot of stigma around gender dysphoria and transgender individuals. Discrimination and victimization may contribute to one’s negative self-image and an increase in anxiety and depression. Suicide rates are also much higher with these individuals than they are with the general public. Adolescents who are transgender are often victims of harassment and bullying at school, which can contribute to serious mental health outcomes.

One of the most difficult challenges these individuals may face are familial and societal rejection. If one does not have a loving and supportive environment to explore their gender identity, emotional distress and impairment will only increase. Families may benefit from therapy or support groups to help deal with negative emotional responses. Peer support groups may also help transgender individuals so they surround themselves by those with similar experiences.

Next Steps

Mental health professionals are trained to effectively deal with gender dysphoria. There are therapists who specialize in assisting transgender individuals. You deserve love and support throughout this journey of self-identity. If you feel these signs and symptoms relate to you, reach out and schedule a session today!



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