Gender Dysphoria

Gender, as you probably know, is a popular topic in politics and the social sphere. We are in a new age in which gender roles and perceived gender is challenged is taking precedence. With this comes new ideas to consider and look at. Gender Dysphoria is one of these. It happens when a person experiences a dissonance between their experienced gender and their assigned gender. However, that is just scratching the surface.

What is Gender Dysphoria

A person with Gender Dysphoria is a strong identification with the opposite gender and is uncomfortable with their biological sex, which results in a significant amount of distress. Until very recently, it was called gender identity disorder regarding people who wish to live as a member of the opposite sex. Often times, they will dress and act in ways that are associated with the other gender. For example, a girl who identifies as a boy will act and feel like a boy. And the fact that their biological sex does not match their feeling can cause real impairment and distress.

These identity issues often show themselves differently in different people. There is no one way. Similarly, there is no one feeling. Some may feel 100% the opposite gender. Others may feel on a spectrum. Some will dress up in the clothes of the gender they identify with, while others seek surgery or hormone treatment to transition to living their life completely in the experienced gender. 

Gender dysphoria is occurs in children and adults, from both biological males and females. Children who experience a different gender identity can have a slightly different experience than adults. For instance, girls who want to be a boy will often say they are and will grow up to be a man. Girls can react poorly if their parents try to get them to do typically feminine things like wear dresses. Boys can leaning more towards traditionally feminine toys. And some will pretend they don’t have a penis or wish for a vagina. 

Being an adult with gender dysphoria can be a different experience. As an adult we take more on our shoulders and interact with more people. Being regarded as the sex you don’t identify, whether in the workplace or in pubic, is incredinly distressing.

Other Features and Disorders of Gender Dysphoria

There are some effects that often come with gender dysphoria. Some of them are things that happen by choice and some are from other people on the outside experiencing a person’s gender dysphoria. Many people live socially isolated and overall have more isolated lives. This can start to make a person have low self-esteem and disliking school/dropping out.  Being ostracized and teased is very common, especially amongst boy groups. Children frequently also have issues with separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and signs of depression. 

Adults can also show symptoms of depression and anxiety. Some people resort to self-treatment which can include hormones or body modifications. And both children and adults, before gender reassignment, are at an increased risk for suicidal thoughts, attempts, and completed suicides. Sadly after reassignment, the risk can still persist depending on how well the person adjusts to their new life. 

Gender Definition

Gender, simply put, is the state of being male or female. Interestingly, the word itself has generally been used to describe social and cultural differences between them and not biological ones. From all the way back in Greek and Latin, it was used to describe the differences of typical male and female behaviors and roles. As we can see today, it is continuing in that vein.

Dysphoria Definition

Dysphoria literally means a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life. Of course, it can be specified to anything and in this case with gender dysphoria, it is in regards to gender. A deep feeling of being uneasy with your gender is the key aspect of it. And with it can come a lack of identity and often leads to being uncomfortable and dissatisfied with life. 

Transgender Definition

Transgender refers to someone whose sense of identity and gender does not match with their birth sex. As we said before, this is the basis of gender dysphoria. Transgender people are sometimes considered transexual if they desire to have medical procedures done regarding gender reassignment. And it is one term of many that fall under gender identity these days, including things like non-binary, pangender, gender fluid, and bigender. 

Gender Dysphoria Symptoms

There are many different symptoms of gender dysphoria. But there are some strong indicators that medical professionals use to determine whether or not someone is experiencing gender dysphoria. Here are some below:


A strong difference between a person’s experienced gender and their birth sex

A desire to get rid of their primary and/or secondary sex organs

A strong sense that their feelings and thoughts are typical of the other gender

A significant distress or impairment of everyday life, social life, school, work, home life from this issue

A strong desire to be the other gender and to have treatment that matches


A desire to be of from other gender or saying they already are the other gender

A preference for wearing clothes typical of the opposite gender

A desire for cross-gender roles when they are playing make-believe or fantasy games

A tendency for the toys, games or activities usually used by the other gender

A desire for friends and playments of the other gender

A dislike of their sexual anatomy, sometimes pretending it isn’t really there

A desire to have the physical sexual characteristics of the other gender

Gender Dysphoria Diagnosis

A diagnosis of gender dysphoria relies on a confirmation of at least 2 symptoms that have been present for at least the last 6 months. Interestingly, children can often experience gender dysphoria very differently. It may include things such as saying they will grow up to be the opposite gender, insisting that they already are the opposite gender, and a dislike for one’s sexual anatomy. 

There can be many things that happen when someone identifies as gender dysphoria. Some people elect to go through with the three-phase treatment, which includes psychological, surgical, and hormonal. Because not everyone feels the same degree of dysphoria, many are able to adjust and live lives free of distress and difficulty through therapy. However, others who elect for gender reassignment surgery find the same peace. 

Hormone therapy, which is a medical procedure that introduces hormones of the other sex into the body of a transexual person, is common in those who wish to make themselves feel more like the gender they identify with. It is made to make the person feel more at east as well as make them physically more passable as the gender they want. There can still be difficulty adjusting afterwards though. And often times psychotherapy is beneficial to those who to through the procedures.  

Gender Dysphoria vs Gender Identity Disorder

For many people, these terms might seem very similar. Recently, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders renamed the term Gender Identity Disorder with the term Gender Dysphoria. But for years, advocates for gender rights have fought to get the term replaced because using terms like “Gender Identity Disorder” makes all trans people out to sound mentally ill. It will no longer have the connotation or the phrase disorder in the title, with the new term reflecting a temporary mental state and rejecting the feeling of some sort of disorder or problematic illness. 

Advocates are somewhat split regarding if this was actually good or not for transgender people. The pro-change advocates say that keeping it as a disorder would have reinforced bi-gender stereotypes and norms. The ones against it say that having it classified as a medical diagnosis was very useful in legal issues. It was a tool that could be used to keep them from being discriminated against

With so many trans people feeling discriminated against, this was an important step on the medical side of things. 

Gender Dysphoria: Final Thoughts

Gender dysphoria is an example of how we are progressing as a society to incorporate new things all the time. It is a slow transition, yet we are opening ourselves to ideas we previously didn’t. And while gender identity in politics is still a major issue, learning and accurately understanding what gender dysphoria is as important as ever. Understanding breeds compassion, and compassion helps everyone. And for everyone’s sake, mainstream society is responsible making sure people with gender dysphoria are respected and understood. With this new landscape of gender identity in the public eye, there is hope for a better future. 





author avatar
Angel Rivera
I am a Bilingual (Spanish) Psychiatrist with a mixture of strong clinical skills including Emergency Psychiatry, Consultation Liaison, Forensic Psychiatry, Telepsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry training in treatment of the elderly. I have training in EMR records thus very comfortable in working with computers. I served the difficult to treat patients in challenging environments in outpatient and inpatient settings
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