Only about .06% of the United States population identifies as another gender. The other 99.4% of people are certain about their gender identity, but therein lies the problem. Because gender identity is such a fluid concept, some people assume that gender dysphoria is just a phase.
Those that misunderstand this disorder may or may not be able to offer appropriate help to others who are dealing with it. Confusion about what gender dysphoria is (and isn’t) can make that even harder. So, it’s important to learn about GD to determine whether it’s legit or just a passing stage of development.
What is gender dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria has been getting a lot of much-needed attention lately, with protesters all over the world fighting for equal rights on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community. That’s because GD is grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. Truth be told, it’s a serious mental health condition that causes extreme discomfort and distress to those who are dealing with it.
People who struggle with their gender identity often feel like their biological makeup doesn’t match who they are inside. As though there were a mix-up of hormones and chromosomes in utero, gender dysphoric individuals think, act, and engage with society in a way that’s contradictory to their sex-related physical characteristics. Thus, gender non-conforming people typically experience gender dysphoria at some point in their lives.
The term “gender dysphoria” refers to the depressed and anxious emotions commonly experienced by people who question their gender identity. Because of society’s stigma on non-conformity, non-binary individuals often suffer through isolation, low self-esteem, and even bullying. This is especially true as the individual attempts to transition from one gender to another.
TIP: If you or someone you love seems to be suffering from gender dysphoria, keep an open mind and then take this test.
How is it caused?
Understanding how gender dysphoria is caused may also help you figure out whether it’s just a phase or not. According to some studies, there may actually be a genetic component to it. However, more research is needed to determine the exact catalyst for such developments. In the meantime, other causes are being routinely examined to see how they directly affect a person’s gender identity. Those causes include:
- Personal preference
- Brain chemistry
- Hormonal imbalances
- Environmental influences
- Trauma or abuse
Keep in mind that gender dysphoria typically begins before puberty. That means small children may exhibit signs of feeling uncomfortable in their own skin. So, it’s crucial to monitor behaviors and preferences while being someone who’s easily to talk to. GD can erupt in adulthood as well, though.
Can gender dysphoria be just a phase?
In most cases, gender dysphoria is not just a phase. Try not to confuse it with someone feeling temporarily curious about their gender identity or sexual orientation. In fact, doing so is considered perfectly normal, especially during adolescence.
Diagnosable GD is different and is much more permanent. That’s because it likely originates from the subconscious mind. Most people with gender-related dysphoria actually end up identifying as gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, or another non-confirming sexual orientation in adulthood. Therefore, it is not an experiment in identity nor is it a natural part of human development.
Diagnosed gender dysphoria is a serious disorder that’s characterized by persistent psychiatric issues and confusion over sexual orientation and/or appropriate gender expression. As such, it can have a major impact on someone’s mental and physical health. So, it’s important to seek professional help if you or a loved one are struggling with gender identity.
NOTE: If the symptoms of gender dysphoria persist after childhood and/or puberty, they’re most likely not going away without therapeutic intervention.
How to help someone with gender dysphoria
Someone with true GD may have a hard time figuring out their identity and/or assimilating appropriately into society. As such, they may suffer from social anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or another extreme mental illness. That’s why it’s so important to get counseling as soon as possible while establishing a circle of support.
Aside from psychotherapy with a mental health professional, many transgender individuals also wish to femininize or masculinize their bodies using estrogen or testosterone therapies. Those therapies may cause unwanted side effects such as mood swings, decreased libido, and increased appetite (then subsequent weight gain). Thus, try to remain open-minded and patient as the individual transitions from one gender to another.
TIP: Ask how you can help a transgender person feel more comfortable about their changes.
Gender dysphoria may not affect a large portion of the population, but that doesn’t make it illegitimate. It’s an extremely damaging mental health disorder that can significantly reduce the quality of someone’s life it ignored. Plus, it’s highly unlikely for gender dysphoria to be just a phase, especially as a child enters or finishes puberty.
About Author: Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with Mind-Diagnostics.org. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.