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What is Gender Dysphoria?

Henning Kalwa

13/03/2024

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Key takeways

Gender dysphoria is a medical condition involving distress due to a mismatch between assigned sex at birth and gender identity.

Symptoms include a strong desire to be another gender and discomfort with one’s sex characteristics.

Treatment options include psychotherapy, hormone therapy, and surgical interventions tailored to individual needs.

Gender dysphoria refers to the distress experienced when a person’s gender identity does not match their biological sex or the gender roles expected by society. This article will provide an overview of gender dysphoria including symptoms, causes, and treatment options from a medical perspective focused on mental health. 

It’s worth noting that ImagineHealth Thailand maintains close affiliations with only the best hospitals in Thailand, ensuring top-tier care for patients. If you or someone that you know has been struggling with their gender identify and would like to explore the various options available today, this is the article for you.

Table of contents

Defining Gender Dysphoria

Let’s begin with a closer look at gender dysphoria and how it is defined:

  • Gender dysphoria is a diagnosed medical condition where a person experiences clinically significant distress or impairment related to the sex they were assigned at birth.
  • It involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which they identify.
  • Gender dysphoria itself does not imply any impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities.

Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria

Now we will explore the various symptoms of gender dysphoria and how it can be identified in an individual:

  • Strong desire to be the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)
  • Strong desire to be treated as the other gender.
  • Strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender
  • Discomfort with one’s own sexed body (i.e. dislike of sex characteristics of one’s sexual anatomy or secondary sex characteristic).
  • Displeasure with the gender roles of one’s gender assigned at birth

Causes of Gender Dysphoria

So, what causes gender dysphoria to occur? Let’s take a closer look:

  • The exact causes of gender dysphoria remain unknown, likely caused by a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors.
  • Factors that may contribute include genetic influences, prenatal hormone exposure, variations in brain structure/functioning, and/or experiences during early development and life.

Gender Identity vs. Gender Dysphoria

What is the difference between gender identity and gender dysphoria? Is there a big difference? Here are some important distinctions to be aware of:

  • Gender dysphoria should not be confused with gender nonconformity, which refers to behaviours not matching the gender norms or stereotypes of the gender assigned at birth.
  • Not all transgender or gender nonconforming individuals experience dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a medical condition, not an identity.

Diagnosis and Treatment

And how can gender dysphoria be treated? What can one do in the event that they are suffering from this medical condition?

  • Diagnosis involves a comprehensive assessment by a qualified mental health professional, based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual criteria.
  • Treatment options include psychotherapy, social transition, hormone therapy, and/or surgical interventions. The overall goals are helping the individual function well and finding lasting gender affirmation.
  • Not all individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria require or wish for gender affirmation treatment. Treatment plans are customized based on each person’s needs and situation.

Mental Health and Gender Affirmation

Gender dysphoria is closely linked with a number of other mental health conditions:

  • Mental health struggles can arise from experiences with discrimination, family rejection, body dysphoria, lack of support and/or denial of gender affirming care.
  • Gender affirming support, transition steps and cultural acceptance have been shown to greatly improve mental health outcomes and overall well-being. A supportive environment is optimal for treatment of gender dysphoria.

What happens if gender dysphoria goes untreated?

As briefly mentioned earlier, not everyone who is diagnosed with gender dysphoria has the desire to transition or have gender reassignment surgery. However, for those who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria and are unable to receive the appropriate treatment, it can result in a number of long-lasting mental health conditions.

In some extreme cases, those who suffer from gender dysphoria and are unable to seek medical treatment – whether it be due to a lack of access, support, or fear of stigmatization, it can result in a higher risk of attempted suicide. As such, it is critical that you or your loved ones seek professional assistance and support.

Remember! As lost and hopeless as you may feel right now, there is light at the end of the tunnel! Not only are there many people out there who understand how you feel, but there are countless individuals who have been in your position. Don’t give up!

Gender dysphoria as a mental health condition

Over recent years there has been much debate over gender dysphoria as a mental health condition. Understandably, those who feel like they were ‘misgendered’ at birth don’t often welcome the notion that they have a mental health condition, as opposed to being trapped in the wrong body. This is because gender dysphoria suggests that they are wrong about their desired gender or are somehow delusional. In any case, gender dysphoria is a very real condition and there are plenty of options out there for those who suffer from the condition – including world-class gender affirmation procedures in Thailand.

ImagineHealth Thailand is revolutionizing the way patients interact with treatment providers in Thailand, the world’s leading healthcare destination. By serving as a bridge, ImagineHealth ensures that individuals are seamlessly connected, matched, and navigated to the most suitable expert surgeons and top-tier hospitals in the country. 

What is gender affirmation?

According to the University of Sydney, gender affirmation is defined as: “The personal process or processes a trans or gender diverse person determines is right for them in order to live as their defined gender and so that society recognises this. Gender affirmation may involve social, medical and/or legal steps that affirm a person’s gender.”

Find Out ImagineHealth’s Exclusive Healthcare Offers in Thailand

Conclusion

In summary, gender dysphoria refers to psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. It is a serious medical condition recognized and diagnosed by health authorities. With a supportive, accepting environment and appropriate treatment, individuals with gender dysphoria can achieve lasting gender affirmation and optimal mental health. Continued research will enhance our understanding of this important issue.

About the author

Henning Kalwa

Henning Kalwa is a visionary healthcare executive dedicated to democratizing access to innovative Longevity Medicine at affordable prices. Inspired by the accessibility enjoyed by global elites, Henning founded ImagineHealth with a mission to ensure that more people can benefit from cutting-edge healthcare solutions. With over 15 years of experience in healthcare management and a graduate of Harvard Medical School’s Southeast Asia Healthcare Leadership program, Henning is committed to transforming ImagineHealth into Thailand’s premier health facilitation company.
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