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Gender dysphoria is the description used for the discomfort that is experienced by someone whose gender does not match the one they were given at birth.

After all, our gender is decided by other people when we’re born, based on the way our body looks. A child born with male genitalia, for instance, will be assigned as ‘male’ but may grow up to be a transgender woman or a number of gender identities.

This can cause considerable distress, especially for young people around the time of puberty when the reality of bodily changes becomes confusing, immediate and visible.

A growing number of young people are presenting with gender identification that is neither male nor female, or a combination of both. This is often referred to as non-binary or gender fluid, but there are many other definitions that may also be used.

At Priory, we understand that coming to terms with gender dysphoria and feeling comfortable in your gender identity is vitally important to your health. We have a dedicated gender dysphoria service at Priory Hospital Roehampton, where people aged 17 and over can engage with psychotherapy services. These will help you understand what may be happening for you, and your feelings and responses to this.

Gender dysphoria isn’t always about identifying with the opposite sex; there has been an increased awareness in recent years of gender fluidity and identifying as non-binary. This can be discussed during assessment and whatever you feel or what you may identify with can form part of your specialist therapy. Your authentic expression is valid, and we support you in finding this.

The conflict between how society expects you to act and behave, in contrast to the gender performance that feels like a better fit for you, may cause discomfort, frustration and unhappiness. This may affect people in different ways. There are many ways a person can express their identified gender, including behaviours, dress and self-image. Dressing as the gender with which you identify is particularly common. You may be unsure how to express your gender authentically. An assessment and subsequent engagement with our team may help you understand what is happening for you, and how you wish to be able to present your gender identity. Not everyone who explores their gender expression experiences emotional and psychological confusion; some people simply wish to have a safe space to explore and validate their sense of self. This too forms part of our service provision, and we are able to work with you and support you as you do this.

Biological sex and gender identity

Some people have gender dysphoria characterised by persistent and strong feelings that they are in a body that they don’t identify with and which does not feel right for them, and may decide a medically assisted transition is best for them. You may consult gender identity clinics about the option of surgical treatment or hormone therapy to align your body with your gender identity. A transition often then means using gender pronouns that are associated with your gender, and potentially changing the gender you are registered as on your official documents, such as your passport. Some people use different pronouns before a transition, and many use different pronouns who have no desire to medically transition. Using the words, titles and gender that are authentic to you can be a key part of understanding who and how you are, and how you wish to present in your world. If you are engaging with a gender clinic to medically transition, our psychotherapy services can provide the emotional support and space for you to explore and think about your feelings through your transition.

If, after assessment and engagement with our practitioners, a medical transition does not feel appropriate for you, having the time and space to understand, explore and perhaps perform an authentic gender expression can be very helpful, and we offer this space for you.

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Treatment for gender dysphoria at Priory

Treatment options will vary depending on your wishes, and identified goals you may have. The level of treatment required will be assessed individually, to help make you feel comfortable in your gender identity. Your treatment belongs to you and at every stage, you will drive and shape how treatment progresses with the support of our experienced practitioners.

Your psychotherapy sessions may explore what gender means, culturally and personally, and your experience of gender dysphoria. The ultimate goal is to provide and promote ongoing support so that you can live in an identity which is authentic for you.

Dedicated psychotherapy service at Priory Hospital Roehampton

Priory Hospital Roehampton offers a dedicated psychotherapy service to support people with gender dysphoria. The service is available for anyone with gender dysphoria, to help understand what you are experiencing and normalise these feelings. This can happen alongside physical treatments that you may currently be undergoing or are considering.

Psychotherapy aims to:

  • Provide a supportive thinking and enquiring space to consider gender and the effects it has on us
  • Help to reduce the amount of distress caused by gender or gender preoccupation in everyday life
  • Enable you to tailor-make your gender identity, as appropriate for you
  • Explore and widen a gender understanding, without restricting yourself to binary gender models
  • Give you stability in your own gender identity and gender expression

You will receive an initial assessment, followed by individual therapy sessions, with the potential to engage with a weekly therapy group. The service is led by an experienced consultant psychiatrist who is aware of gender diversities and who has a wealth experience in working therapeutically with people who have questions around their identity.

This page was clinically reviewed by Laura James (BACP) in October 2022.

Understanding dysphoric feelings
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Signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria
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What causes gender dysphoria?
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