Gender Dysmorphia: It’s Not the Result of a Sick Mind

The LGBTQ is riddled with myths and stereotypes. We can’t bust them all in a blog post, but let’s try and clear one up, at least.

One unfortunate assumption is that transgender people are mentally ill.

The term gender identity disorder used to refer to transgender people, but today both the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association have shifted from referring to it as disorder and now refer to it as gender dysphoria.

Gender identity basically is how one perceives oneself. For example, Jennifer was born with ovaries and a vagina, but they identify as a male and Jennifer becomes Jeremy. It’s not wrong. It just is what it is.

And the person who’s hurting the most in the process is Jeremy. They don’t need to be told they’re wrong from a medical or a psychological standpoint. And really, is the Jeremy formerly known as Jennifer really hurting anyone?

So what is dysphoria? Aside from a heck of a Scrabble score, Merriam-Webster defines dysphoria as “a state of feeling very unhappy, uneasy, or dissatisfied.” Attach “gender” in front of the word and it’s “a distressed state arising from conflict between a person’s gender identity and the sex the person has or was identified as having at birth.”

In recent years, health professionals are in theory encouraged to work with a transgender individual as opposed to working against them. 

The goal of the psychiatrist or therapist in dealing with such cases is to look at the big picture. Is the person suffering from any other conditions such as depression or anxiety? Then those must be treated. If a person is considering a sex change, they must be made aware of all that it entails, including psychological and physical changes (hormones, potential surgery).

Deep down, they’re trying to bring forth their real self. It isn’t a whim. It’s the result of a real internal struggle. Any mental health treatment that is necessary should be to help the individual throughout the process, purely because there will be such a monumental change, both from the inside and out as well as how the world may view the shift.

The diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria in adolescents and adults includes a person who

  • Feels or expresses themselves differently from the gender they were at birth (primary sex characteristics) and/or are becoming/became at puberty (secondary sex characteristics). 
  • Has a strong desire to let go of one’s primary or secondary sex characteristics because they identify differently. (Or prevent them, if their desire precedes puberty.) 
  • Desires to have the characteristics of another gender, be treated as another gender, or simply be another gender.

These conditions also need to continue for at least six months for it to be diagnosed. It’s perhaps best to view gender dysmorphia more as a condition rather than a disorder.

There is nothing to be cured. It’s not eccentricity. It’s not a phase. People with gender dysmorphia deserve a voice and dignity, and not to be something to be despised or disregarded.

To do so risks more pain, depression, abuse, anger, anxiety, and makes escaping into drugs and alcohol more appealing. That doesn’t help anyone.

And if the Jeremy formerly known as Jennifer is happy and at peace with themself, shouldn’t everyone else be cool with it also?

Sources – 11 Stereotypes People Should Stop Believing About the LGBTQ Community – Terminology – Dysphoria – Gender Dysphoria – Gender Dysphoria in Adults: An Overview and Primer for Psychiatrists – LGBTQ Addiction Treatment Resources

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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