Gender dysphoria is a condition that affects individuals who experience a disconnect between their gender identity and their assigned sex at birth. It can be a challenging and distressing experience that impacts a person’s mental health, relationships, and quality of life.
However, therapy can be an essential tool for individuals who are coping with gender dysphoria. Through therapy, individuals can find ways to feel more in tune with themselves, learn coping skills, and navigate the complexities of gender identity.
Finding a qualified therapist nearby for a one-on-one session can be hard, but online counseling with an experienced therapist is a good option. Specialized therapists at PrideCounseling.com can give you the advice and support you need during this important time in your life. When you need it, Pride Counseling provides discreet, inexpensive online counseling from certified, board-accredited therapists.
What Exactly is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is defined as psychological suffering or a sense of discontent, anxiety, and restlessness caused by a mismatch between one’s sex at birth and one’s gender identity. Although gender dysphoria is common throughout childhood, some people do not feel it until they reach adolescence or later.
Gender dysphoria can manifest itself in a number of ways. Some people experience discomfort with their physical appearance, feeling that their body does not match their gender identity. Others may feel uncomfortable with the way they are treated by others based on their gender, or may struggle with societal expectations related to gender roles and norms.
The impact of gender dysphoria on non-cisgender individuals can be significant. Non-cisgender individuals are those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth. This can include transgender individuals, who identify as a gender that is different from the sex they were assigned at birth, as well as individuals who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, or other gender identities that are not strictly male or female.
For queer individuals, dysphoria can impact every aspect of their lives. It can make it difficult to form meaningful relationships, to pursue educational or career opportunities, and to participate in social activities. Non-cisgender individuals may experience discrimination, harassment, and violence based on their gender identity, which can further exacerbate feelings of distress and discomfort.
Gender Dysphoria And Mental Health
As we’ve mentioned previously, gender dysphoria can severely impact one’s mental health. Studies have shown that queer and transgender individuals are at increased risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide. In fact, one study found that nearly half of transgender individuals have attempted suicide at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, therapy can be a helpful tool for individuals who are struggling with gender dysphoria. Therapy can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore their gender identity, process their feelings of distress and discomfort, and develop coping strategies to manage their symptoms.
Gender affirming therapy may involve a variety of approaches, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Some individuals may benefit from talk therapy, which can help them to process their emotions and experiences related to gender identity. Others may benefit from cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can help them to develop strategies for coping with distress and anxiety related to gender dysphoria.
Hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgeries are also important treatment options for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria. Hormone therapy can help to align the body with an individual’s gender identity, while gender-affirming surgeries can help to reduce distress related to physical appearance.
It’s important to note that therapy for gender dysphoria should be individualized and tailored to the specific needs of each individual. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating gender dysphoria, and therapy should be based on the unique needs and experiences of each individual.
Therapy can also be helpful for queer individuals who are navigating the process of coming out to friends, family, and coworkers. Coming out can be a difficult and stressful process, and therapy can provide a safe and supportive space for individuals to explore their feelings, develop coping strategies, and practice communication skills.
Joining LGBTQA+ Support Groups
In addition to individual therapy, LGBTQA+ support groups and organizations can be incredibly helpful for individuals experiencing gender dysphoria. These groups provide a safe and supportive space where individuals can connect with others who are going through similar experiences. They offer a sense of community, validation, and understanding that can be difficult to find elsewhere.
Support groups and organizations can also provide valuable resources and information on gender affirming care and treatment options. This can include information on local doctors, therapists, and other healthcare providers who specialize in working with individuals who are transgender or non-binary.
In addition to offering resources and support, LGBTQA+ support groups and organizations can also be a place to connect with others who share similar interests and hobbies. Many groups organize social events, workshops, and educational sessions that can help individuals feel more comfortable in their own skin and build a sense of community.
It’s important to note that not all support groups and organizations are created equal, and it may take some trial and error to find the right fit. Some groups may be more focused on social events, while others may offer more structured support and educational programs. It’s important to find a group or organization that aligns with your needs and interests.
In addition to local support groups and organizations, there are also many online communities that can provide a sense of connection and support. Online forums and social media groups can be a great way to connect with others who are going through similar experiences, especially for those who may not have access to in-person support groups in their area.
Gender Dysphoria Diagnosis
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes a generic diagnosis of gender dysphoria, as well as specific criteria for children, adolescents, and adults.
Gender dysphoria is diagnosed when there is a demonstrable difference between a person’s declared and experienced gender and the sex assigned to them at birth.
To diagnose gender dysphoria in children that has lasted at least six months, at least six of the following criteria must be met.
- Having a strong desire or insisting on identifying as someone of the opposite gender
- Having a strong preference for toys, games, or pastimes traditionally associated with the other gender.
- Having a strong desire for more gender-specific clothing
- Having a significant preference for cross-gender roles in pretend or fantasy play.
- Having a strong dislike for gender-specific toys, games, and hobbies
- Having a strong dislike for one’s sexual anatomy
- Having a strong preference for playing with either male or female playmates
To be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, an adult or adolescent must have met at least two of the following criterion in the previous six months:
- A strong preference for the other gender’s major and/or secondary sex features
- A significant disparity between one’s primary and secondary sex characteristics and their experienced or expressed gender
- A strong desire to be the opposite gender
- A strong desire to get rid of one’s major and/or secondary sex features
- A strong desire to be treated differently because of gender
- A firm belief that one possesses the opposing gender’s typical emotions and actions.
This pain must also cause problems or significant stress in a person’s relationships, work or school, and social life, among other areas of functioning.
Gender dysphoria is a complex and challenging experience, as the distress caused by feeling misaligned with one’s gender identity can have profound effects on mental health and overall well-being. However, finding gender affirming care can help individuals cope with gender dysphoria and begin to feel more in tune with themselves.
Gender affirming care can come in many forms, from therapy to hormone replacement therapy to gender-affirming surgeries. It is important to work with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about and supportive of gender identity and expression. Seeking out community resources, such as support groups or LGBTQ+ organizations, can also provide a valuable network of support.
Remember, gender identity is a deeply personal experience, and no two individuals will have the exact same journey. Finding the right gender affirming care is a process that may take time and effort, but it is worth it to feel seen and validated in one’s true gender identity. With the right support and resources, it is possible for non-cisgender individuals to live fulfilling and authentic lives.