Gender Dysphoria: A Closer Look
Wed, April 21, 2021

Gender Dysphoria: A Closer Look

Gender dysphoria can occur in 1 in 30,000 male-assigned births and 1 in 100,000 female-assigned births. It is considered to be a medical condition that involves neurological structures in the brain / Photo by: Dmytro Zinkevych via Shutterstock

 

Gender dysphoria can occur in 1 in 30,000 male-assigned births and 1 in 100,000 female-assigned births. It is considered to be a medical condition that involves neurological structures in the brain. However, new studies claim that gender dysphoria should be revisited and reviewed in order to provide adequate and effective care for those people who have this condition. 

 

What is Gender Dysphoria?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria is the conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender that they identify with. People with gender dysphoria may feel very distressed and uncomfortable with the sex and gender they are born with and they particularly feel uncomfortable with their body especially during or after puberty. 

This gender conflict can affect people in different ways. It can change the way the person expresses themselves and it can also change their behavior, the way they dress, and their self-image. In other cases, some people may opt to cross-dress and others may choose to medically transition and have sex-change surgery and hormone treatment. 

Moreover, gender dysphoria can also be seen in children, and they might express their want to be the opposite sex from an early age. They prefer clothing or hairstyle and to be called by a name of the opposite gender. Also, cross-dressing behaviors may start between the ages of two and five, and this is when they also typically develop their gendered behaviors and interests. For some children, they may find it to be difficult to identify with their own body, and some adolescents become unable to shower in public or even develop self-harm behaviors. 

Also, it is important to remember that gender dysphoria is not the same as gender nonconformity.gender dysphoria is a physical condition, while gender nonconformity is a sociological expression or behavior, it is when a person does not conform to the typical gender norms or stereotypes that are usually imposed on them by the society. 

Currently, gender dysphoria is considered to be a mental illness just like major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. It is part of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders which provides the overarching diagnosis of gender dysphoria with specific criteria for children, adolescents, and adults. Gender dysphoria in adolescents and adults involves a conflict between one’s experienced and expressed gender and their assigned gender. This can create severe distress in their mental health and overall wellbeing. 

Neurological Basis for Gender Dysphoria 

A new study was published in the eNeuro by the Society of Neuroscience, which claims that there is a novel theory of gender dysphoria that argues that the symptoms of the condition are because of the changes in network activity in the brain and it is not actually because of having “incorrect” brain sex. 

The leading theory behind gender dysphoria is that the people experiencing this condition possess brain regions with the size and shape of the opposite sex or the sex that they identify with instead of the sex they are born with. However, new brain imaging studies do not support that theory as reported on Science Daily, a neuroscience and medical news website. 

Stephen Gliske, a researcher and a member of the society of neuroscience, said that he has reviewed previous research on gender dysphoria and he claimed that the condition is caused by altered brain activities in three different networks in the brain that primarily affects one’s sense of gender identity. This new theory is very promising since it can offer ways to treat the distress of people with gender dysphoria without relying on invasive surgeries. 

The leading theory behind gender dysphoria is that the people experiencing this condition possess brain regions with the size and shape of the opposite sex or the sex that they identify with instead of the sex they are born with / Photo by: Billion Photos via Shutterstock

 

Should Gender Dysphoria Be Considered A Medical Disorder?

Although it is widely accepted that gender dysphoria is a form of mental disorder in the medical field, some gender rights advocates said that it should be removed from the medical disorder category and specifically from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). 

These advocates claimed that medicalization can be a complex and discriminating experience. Having gender dysphoria labeled as a mental disorder can automatically stigmatize the experience and it can also create the notion that people with this condition can be “fixed” or reverted back to the gender and sex they were assigned with from birth. Moreover, people with this condition may also feel like they do not fit in society since they usually do not identify with the usual categories of male or female, and by labeling them as mentally disordered, it can further make them feel more alienated than ever. 

According to the Pacific Standard, an online publication on politics and culture, the DSM should be reviewed—medical professionals and especially psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuroscientists should again retackle the issue of gender dysphoria and whether or not it should be considered as a mental disorder.

They should revisit this topic with the people with this condition in mind and truly make it safer and easier for them to get treatments if they choose to do so.