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-nonconforming people might experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives. But not everyone is affected. Some transgender and gender-nonconforming people feel at ease with their bodies, either with or without medical intervention.
Gender dysphoria is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association to diagnose mental conditions. This term is intended to be more descriptive than the one that was previously used, gender identity disorder. The term gender dysphoria focuses on one's discomfort as the problem, rather than identity. A diagnosis for gender dysphoria was created to help people get access to necessary health care and effective treatment.
Gender dysphoria might cause adolescents and adults to experience:
- A marked difference between your inner gender identity and assigned gender lasting at least six months, as shown by at least two of the following:
- A marked difference between your inner gender identity and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics, or anticipated secondary sex characteristics in young adolescents
- A strong desire to be rid of primary and/or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked difference with your inner gender identity, or a desire to prevent the development of anticipated secondary sex characteristics in young adolescents
- A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender
- A strong desire to be of the other gender or an alternate gender different from assigned gender
- A strong desire to be treated as the other gender or an alternate gender different from assigned gender
- A strong conviction that you have typical feelings and reactions of the other gender or an alternate gender different from assigned gender
- Significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning
Gender dysphoria might start in childhood and continue into adolescence and adulthood (early onset). Or, you might have periods in which you no longer experience gender dysphoria followed by a recurrence of gender dysphoria. You might also experience gender dysphoria around the time of puberty or much later in life (late onset).
Gender dysphoria can impair many aspects of life. Preoccupation with being of another gender than the one assigned often interferes with daily activities. People experiencing gender dysphoria might refuse to go to school, due to pressure to dress in a way that's associated with their sex or out of fear of being harassed or teased. Gender dysphoria can also impair the ability to function at school or at work, resulting in school dropout or unemployment. Relationship difficulties are common. Anxiety, depression, self-harm, eating disorders, substance abuse and other problems can occur.
People who have gender dysphoria also often experience discrimination, resulting in minority stress. Access to health services and mental health services can be difficult, due to fear of stigma and a lack of experienced providers.
Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria before gender reassignment might be at risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempts and suicide. After gender reassignment, suicide risk might continue.