Overview

Gender dysphoria is the feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.

Transgender and gender-diverse people might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. However, some transgender and gender-diverse people feel at ease with their bodies, with or without medical intervention.

A diagnosis for gender dysphoria is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association. The diagnosis was created to help people with gender dysphoria get access to necessary health care and effective treatment. The term focuses on discomfort as the problem, rather than identity.

Symptoms

Gender dysphoria might cause adolescents and adults to experience a marked difference between inner gender identity and assigned gender that lasts for at least six months. The difference is shown by at least two of the following:

  • A difference between gender identity and genitals or secondary sex characteristics, such as breast size, voice and facial hair. In young adolescents, a difference between gender identity and anticipated secondary sex characteristics.
  • A strong desire to be rid of these genitals or secondary sex characteristics, or a desire to prevent the development of secondary sex characteristics.
  • A strong desire to have the genitals and secondary sex characteristics of another gender.
  • A strong desire to be or to be treated as another gender.
  • A strong belief of having the typical feelings and reactions of another gender.

Gender dysphoria may also cause significant distress that affects how you function in social situations, at work or school, and in other areas of life.

Gender dysphoria might start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood. Or you might have periods in which you no longer experience gender dysphoria. You might also experience gender dysphoria around the time of puberty or much later in life.

Complications

Gender dysphoria can affect many aspects of life, including daily activities. People experiencing gender dysphoria might have difficulty in school due to pressure to dress in a way that's associated with their sex assigned at birth or out of fear of being harassed or teased.

If gender dysphoria impairs the ability to function at school or at work, the result may be school dropout or unemployment. Relationship difficulties are common. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, substance misuse and other problems can occur.

People who have gender dysphoria also often experience discrimination, resulting in stress. Accessing health services and mental health services can be difficult due to fear of stigma and a lack of experienced care providers.

Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria without gender-affirming treatment might be at risk of thinking about or attempting suicide.

Gender dysphoria care at Mayo Clinic

Feb. 26, 2022
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