What is Gender Dysphoria?

Gender Dysphoria is a complex condition in which a person feels an inner conflict between their assigned gender, and the gender they identify with. People with gender dysphoria tend to be uncomfortable with their bodies or their expected gender roles – this often heightens during puberty.

Gender dysphoria affects everyone differently. While some people combat it with transitioning medically, by use of hormone treatments and/or sex-change surgeries, others may feel satisfied by only transitioning socially to those around them. Other people may find ways to express their identified or desired gender through means of cross-dressing or picking up mannerisms associated with the other gender.

Some people confuse gender nonconformity with dysphoria. These aren’t the same! Gender nonconformity is the expression of non-typical gender norms by an individual. There are many – take Youtube sensation Miles Jay, for example – who are comfortable with their assigned genders and display opposite gender norms. An example would be a man – who is comfortable with his male identity – who loves to paint his nails and wear heels.


Signs of Dysphoria

Though cross-gender behavior can begin as early as age two, early symptoms of gender dysphoria typically begin at age 4 and worsen during puberty (or later). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) provides a list of signs that an individual may have gender dysphoria. Those with gender dysphoria have at least two of the following symptoms over a six-month timespan:

In Adults

  • Misalignment between experienced gender and given sex characteristics (primary and/or secondary).
  • A strong desire to get rid of given sex characteristics
  • A strong desire to attain the sex characteristics of another gender
  • Strong desires to be and be treated as another gender
  • A strong conviction that one has feelings/reactions of another gender (“thinking like a boy/girl”)
  • High levels of distress
  • Inability to function in relationships, school or home life


In Children

  • Misalignment between experienced gender and given sex characteristics (primary and/or secondary).
  • A desire to be of the other gender/insisting that they are the other gender
  • Strong preference for clothes typical of the opposite gender
  • Strong preference for opposite gender roles in make-believe/fantasy play
  • Strong preference for toys that are typically used by another gender
  • Strong preference for playmates of the other gender
  • Rejection of toys/activities typical of one’s assigned gender
  • Dislike of one’s own sexual anatomy
  • A desire for the physical characteristics that match the child’s experienced gender

Keep in mind that some of these symptoms are common in many children who grow up without dysphoria. It is not strange for a child to play around with gender and cross-dress or play with toys typical of the opposite gender. Many LGBT individuals have memories of doing things like this in their childhoods because cross-gender behavior is a common sign for non-heterosexual attraction later in life. These behaviors must be combined with point one – the misalignment between experienced gender and given sex characteristics – to be considered signs of gender dysphoria.



Gender dysphoria itself can be horrible to deal with. But it is the deterioration of mental health due to social non-acceptance that makes it deadly.

Those who suffer from gender dysphoria often experience high levels of isolation and victimization by the general public. Many individuals who display signs of gender dysphoria experience negatively affected relationships with friends and family. This behavior toward those who suffer – as well as the trans community as a whole – leads to increased risk for self-harm and suicide.

Many people with gender dysphoria may have coexisting disorders, such as an anxiety disorder, depression or addiction.



There is a range of options for treating gender dysphoria. These options include but are not limited to:

  • Counseling

    • This is something that is beneficial on its own and in combination with other treatments. Family therapy is recommended for children, while adults can benefit from individual or couples counseling.
  • Hormone therapy

    • This involves using male or female-typical hormones to help an individual develop secondary sex characteristics typical of the opposite gender.
  • Puberty suppression

    • This type of chemical therapy prevents the onset of puberty in a child in order to prevent their unwanted secondary sex characteristics from developing, as well as to give the individual time to make a decision on transitioning.
  • Gender reassignment surgery

    • This is the most physically invasive option. Gender reassignment involves surgically removing male or female-typical sex features and/or constructing and implanting new ones that fall in line with an individual’s desired gender.

It is important to look at each option carefully with a mental health professional because not everyone with gender dysphoria is the same! Some people use one kind of treatment to relieve their dysphoria, while others use a number of them! Sometimes, after time and counseling, some people decide not to transition at all. According to Debrah Soh, a neuroscience researcher from York University in Toronto, 60-90% of gender dysphoric children do not transition after reaching puberty.


We hope this article taught you a little something about gender dysphoria! This was a brief and simple look at a complex subject that affects thousands of people. If you have anything you would like to add to the conversation, send us your thoughts in the comments section down below. Psych2Go would love to hear from you!

Works Cited
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: DSM-5. American Psychiatric Association, 2013.
“Don’t Treat All Cases of Gender Dysphoria the Same Way.” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 24 Jan. 2018, www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/dont-treat-all-cases-of-gender-dysphoria-the-same-way/article37711831/.
“Gender Dysphoria.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/gender-dysphoria.
“What Is Gender Dysphoria?” Mindfulness Practices May Help Treat Many Mental Health Conditions, www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gender-dysphoria/what-is-gender-dysphoria.
Edited by Viveca Shearin

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  1. Hi, I currently have a therapist right now but she thinks everything is ok for me. I have never EVER mentioned anything gender related to her. I want to tell her so so bad that I have gender dysphoria because she’s someone who can help me with getting me hrt and all that stuff. But since I haven’t mentioned it and I’ve had her for months, I feel like she might think it’s a “phase” even though I’ve felt out of place my whole life, I’ve never felt human because I never fit in with any gender roles. Do you suggest anything I can mention to bring up I have gender dysphoria to her?

    (PS I already figured out my identity is Demi-boy)

    1. Hi Danny, thanks for your question! I myself am not experiencing gender dysphoria. But I can understand hesitating to speak about something so personal, that has affected you in such an intense way. It’s scary to open up. But luckily, that’s what therapy is for! Her job is to listen to you – free of judgement or persecution – and help you overcome your life obstacles to help you feel better. The thought of revealing your dysphoria probably feels scary because you carry the notion that she already has a perception of who you are, and telling her may change your dynamic.
      But trust me, being the mental health professional that she is, she wants to know these things to help you and even help you with hrt. Are you comfortable with her? Do you feel like you can be open to her with other things?
      There are many ways you could introduce your dysphoria to your sessions. A subtle approach may feel safe, but for the sake of your own wellness, its best that she knows everything in full detail. If I were in this situation, I would email/call/text ahead of my next appointment and say that there was something important that I would like to discuss. Doing this traps you out of backing out. It also ensures that you’ll have a whole session to bring dysphoria to the forefront. If you feel like you’d still have a hard time speaking after that, I’d send an email similar to this comment that you sent me! Explain the dysphoria and the effect on your life it has had. Then, your therapist can take the lead on the conversation and ask you questions, taking the stress of explaining yourself off of your back.

      I really hope this helped. But either way, I’m proud of you for wanting a good change in your life! You deserve to feel comfortable in the skin your in. ❤️


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