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Gender dysphoria is the strong and persistent distress that occurs when your inner gender identity conflicts with your birth-assigned sex. The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) estimates that 1% of the British population consider themselves to be non-binary to some extent; this leaves many people who can and will experience gender dysphoria. Those who experience gender dysphoria often desire to become a member of the opposite sex, and will often dress and display mannerisms that are traditionally exhibited by the sex they identify.
Gender dysphoria provides a great deal of stress for those who experience it. People who experience gender dysphoria without the support of friends or family can find themselves struggling between being themselves and hiding their true gender identity.
What are the symptoms?
While there are no physical symptoms or signs of gender dysphoria, the mental and emotional implications for those suffering are prominent. Teenagers and adults with gender dysphoria are vulnerable to isolation, low self-esteem, stress, anxiety, depression and suicide. This is frequently due to the repeated suppression of their true identity and attempting to live as their assigned sex. However, due to symptoms being emotional and mental, it can be harder to diagnose and easier for the person and their loved ones to ignore.
Gender dysphoria in children
Gender dysphoria also occurs with children, often exhibiting behaviour like referring to themselves as the opposite sex, wanting to wear clothes traditionally worn by the opposite sex as well as disliking clothing intended for their sex, and feeling disgust towards their own genitalia. This can result in anxiety, depression and isolation from their peers. In older children, puberty is also the cause of distress due to the physical changes that occur in their body.
As most children who exhibit signs of gender dysphoria no longer experience this condition once reaching adulthood, it is often described as a phase, despite some children maintaining the condition into adulthood. This can leave those with gender dysphoria without help, support or treatment as families address this condition as a phase and something that isn't permanent.
In terms of treatment, there is not a singular method and it depends on the person. For people under the age of 18, most of the treatments are from a psychological standpoint - such as family therapy, individual child therapy and monitoring their gender identity development. This is because, as we already highlighted, many children with gender dysphoria don’t have the condition once they reach puberty.
Adults are able to visit an adult gender clinic because they can legally consent to their treatment, as this is where hormone and surgical treatments can be implemented. This can range from mental health support, hormone treatments and surgical operations. The treatment again depends on the individual, as some find mental health support gives them the freedom to be comfortable in their gender identity. Others find hormone treatment an effective method to help their bodies adjust to fit their gender better, while others require a complete transition to the opposite sex.
Gender dysphoria is a condition which requires a great deal of support. While many people can experience gender dysphoria, the condition is different for everyone.