We at CIC and THE PHONE do not diagnose mental illness. If you are seeking a diagnosis please contact a mental health professional.
However if you or a loved one is struggling with the symptoms of gender dysphoria, our crisis intervention specialists can provide emotional support through THE PHONE and can get you connected to local resources.
Gender dysphoria refers to a conflict between the gender a person is assigned at birth and the gender with which they personally identify. It is characterized by discomfort and distress in a person coming to terms with this conflict that affects their ability to function.
Gender dysphoria is not to be confused with gender noncomformity, which refers to behaviors not necessarily matching that of a person’s assigned gender.
The diagnosis of gender dysphoria according to the DSM-5 is different for children and for adolescents/adults.
To be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a child must exhibit at least six of the following behaviors alongside a significant amount of distress or inability to function lasting at least six months:
- Strong desire to be the other gender or insistence that one is the other gender
- Strong preference for wearing clothes typical of the other gender
- Strong preference for other gender roles in make-believe play
- Strong preference for toys, games or activities stereotypically used or engaged in by the other gender
- Strong preference for playmates of the other gender
- A strong rejection of toys, games, and activities typical of one’s assigned gender
- A strong distaste for one’s physical anatomy
- A strong desire for the physical sex characteristics that match the other gender
It is important to remember that gender atypical behavior is normal in young children. A child who shows some of these signs may or may not be experiencing gender dysphoria and the signs may or may not continue after puberty.
Treatment is only necessary when the child is experiencing significant distress and discomfort that affects their self-identity and daily activities. Treatment is generally focused on support, coping with distress, and giving the child the opportunity to articulate their feelings.
An adolescent or adult must experience a marked difference between their experienced gender and assigned gender alongside a significant amount of distress or inability to function lasting at least six months to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria. They must exhibit two of the following:
- A marked incongruence between one’s experienced gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire to be rid of one’s primary and/or secondary sex characteristics
- A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
- A strong desire to be of the other gender
- A strong desire to be treated as the other gender
- A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender
Individuals have many options of treatment that are dependent upon their individual needs and desires. Therapy and counseling is generally a necessary treatment option to better understand those needs and desires. From there the individual may choose to pursue hormone treatment or surgery, or may simply decide that all they need is support from others. They may address the social and legal transition options to the desired gender.
Gender dysphoria today continues to face obstacles of stigmatization and discrimination, which contribute to self-image and confidence issues and increased rates of other mental illnesses. They are also at increased rates for suicide and victimization to violent crimes. Children experiencing gender dysphoria are at high risk for anxiety and depression that may affect them for the remainder of their lives.