Gender Dysphoria – how it affects the person and loved ones

March 13, 2023
By Dr Zheng Zhimin, Psychiatrist

Gender Dysphoria is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as emotional distress arising from the incongruence between experienced gender and biological sex at birth.

It may also lead to impact on functioning in multiple areas of daily living and can result in co-morbid depressive and anxiety states.

Gender Dysphoria can be distressing

Individuals experiencing symptoms of Gender Dysphoria often find it distressing to look at their own bodies, and especially so after puberty developmental changes have set in. They may attempt to dress and present in a way that best suits their experienced gender identity and may also conceal physical features at the same time, such was wearing chest binders or tucking of external genitalia.

For individuals whose physical discomfort significantly affects their emotional well-being, they may also consider hormone treatment and/or surgery, in order to align their bodies more closely to their experienced gender identity.

Big life adjustments

Social transitioning, or Real Life Experience, is a process whereby individuals live full-time or part-time as a member of their experienced gender. This can include using preferred name, pronouns, “coming out” to other people, and changing their dressing.

An important aspect of social transitioning also involves having to adjust to new gender roles and responsibilities, including re-integration into the social environments, such as family, school and workplace.

"Coming out" can be particularly stressful

This can be a particularly stressful process, as they may face potential rejection and discrimination. Research has shown that individuals who receive explicit verbalized support from their family tend to experience better mental health and social outcomes of transitioning.

Transitioning is a process that not only involves the individual, but also the people around them.

It can be very challenging for loved ones to understand and accept the new gender identity and physical presentation.

Parents are often worried

Parents are often worried that their children will face significant challenges in life if they choose to live as a transgender person. Some may even blame themselves for their children’s gender concerns or experience an inexplicable anger towards their children’s decision to transition.

It always helps to talk about it

Speaking with a mental health professional with experience in this field can help the individual and loved ones to achieve a better understanding and facilitate communication on such sensitive issues.

If you are currently troubled or confused about this issue, do reach out regarding your concerns.

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