Can Gender Dysphoria Be the Reason Behind Other Disorder Symptoms?

An article from the American Journal of Public Health estimates that there are about one million transgender adults in America, with numbers increasing annually. Transgender individuals are particularly vulnerable to experiencing gender dysphoria, a condition marked by severe psychological distress that occurs when an individual’s biological sex does not match their gender identity. Such distress can have long-lasting impacts on an individual’s well-being, especially if it goes untreated.

Similar to any untreated mental health condition, untreated gender dysphoria can increase an individual’s risk of developing mental health disorders and substance use disorder (SUD). For this reason, it is imperative that individuals recognize the necessity of professional treatment in healing from gender dysphoria, co-occurring disorders, and any other associated symptoms. At Alter Behavioral Health, we are passionate about providing gender-affirming care to our clients struggling with gender dysphoria and any associated health concerns. 

What Is Gender Dysphoria?

According to Gender Dysphoria by Garima Garg, Ghada Elshimy, and Raman Marwaha, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) defines gender dysphoria as “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.” This condition may begin to develop during childhood. However, it is more commonly developed during or after puberty. 

Individuals who experience gender dysphoria often experience an internal sense of chaos, feeling as if they were born into the wrong body. Such turmoil can inevitably affect an individual’s ability to function in daily life, let alone impair interpersonal relationships and inhibit their ability to find their place in the world. 

Symptoms of Gender Dysphoria

The publication titled “Medical Interventions for Transgender Youth,” published by Endotext [Internet], provides a table that identifies the DSM-5 criteria for gender dysphoria. For a proper diagnosis, at least two of the following six manifestations must be present for at least six months:

  • As mentioned previously, “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics”
  • A strong conviction that one is experiencing authentic feelings and reactions of another gender

As well as a strong desire to:

  • Alter or rid one’s sexual anatomy due to marked incongruence in expressed gender
  • Have the sexual autonomy of another gender
  • Be of another gender
  • Be treated as another gender

Moreover, the condition of gender dysphoria “is associated with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

The Heavy Burdens of Gender Dysphoria

Although the level of unease or dissatisfaction that accompanies gender dysphoria can vary, it is often so intense that it impairs an individual’s sense of self. In addition, a person with gender dysphoria is vulnerable to experiencing a plethora of hardships in their daily life. These challenges often interfere with a person’s willingness to seek or pursue mental health treatment. 

As a result of increased stigmatization and discrimination, some of the immense challenges that individuals with gender dysphoria experience include:

  • Economic hardships
    • Increased risk of poverty and unemployment
    • Discrimination in education
    • Increased risk of homelessness
  • Health disparities
    • Increased rates of HIV infection
    • Lack of primary and gender-affirming care
    • High rates of attempted suicide
  • Relational issues
    • Peer, familial, and societal rejection

The Effects of Gender Dysphoria on Mental Health

Individuals who experience gender dysphoria and associated challenges are subject to profound mental health distress. Gender dysphoria can harm an individual’s self-worth, perpetuating feelings of guilt, shame, blame, and more. Further, an individual with gender dysphoria may become fixated on their gender expression, informing the development of eating disorders and other mental health problems.

Some of the specific mental health concerns that often result from gender dysphoria include:

  • Negative self-image
  • Dissociative symptoms
  • Increased conflict in interpersonal relationships
  • Slowed educational or occupational development
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Self-harming behavior
  • The development of mental health disorders:
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Eating disorders
    • Mood disorders
    • Personality disorders
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Additionally, individuals with gender dysphoria experience increased risks of addiction and substance use disorder (SUD). In an attempt to treat or resolve unmanageable symptoms of gender dysphoria, an individual may turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate. Moreover, they may feel more compelled to engage in substance use alongside other peers with gender dysphoria in nightlife or party scenes. Not only does substance use only mask underlying gender dysphoria symptoms, but it also makes an individual more vulnerable to developing a co-occurring chemical dependency. 

Treating Gender Dysphoria at Alter Behavioral Health

At Alter Behavioral Health, we pride ourselves on creating customizable treatment plans for all of our clients. We curate these plans using a whole-person approach to care to ensure that each client has the best chance at securing lasting wellness in their lives. In addition to treating a diagnosis or set of symptoms, we customize treatment based on our client’s unique needs and recovery goals. 

Upon arrival at our facility, clients will undergo initial assessments and screenings to properly diagnose any mental health disorders. Proper diagnoses are essential for crafting an effective treatment plan. From there, we work with our clients to identify treatment modalities and approaches that will best fit their needs. Individuals struggling with gender dysphoria and other mental health disorders can find refuge and healing at our facility. 

Gender dysphoria is a complex mental health condition characterized by psychological distress that interferes with an individual’s ability to function normally in daily life. Commonly, gender dysphoria occurs alongside other mental health disorders and symptoms, such as a negative self-image, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and substance abuse. If you are struggling with gender dysphoria, Alter Behavioral Health can help. We are a mental health treatment facility that applies a modern understanding of care and emphasizes treating a diagnosis as well as the person. We offer a wide range of therapeutic approaches and modalities to ensure that you can achieve lasting symptom management and wellness in your life. To learn more, call us at (866) 691-4386.