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Gender dysphoria is a term which describes the feelings of confusion or distress from a mismatch between your biological sex and your gender identity. Sometimes referred to as gender identity disorder (GID) or transgender, gender dysphoria relates to the gender identity that you feel yourself to be, as opposed to your biological sex based on anatomical appearance.

At Priory, we understand that coming to terms with gender dysphoria and feeling comfortable in your gender identity is vitally important to your emotional health and mental wellbeing. We have a dedicated Gender Dysphoria service at Priory Hospital Roehampton, where young people (aged 17 and over) and adults alike can receive psychotherapy services. These will help to understand more about the condition and how it makes you feel.

Biological sex and gender identity

While biological sex and gender identity are aligned for many people, you may feel as though you have been given the wrong body that you don’t identify with. This could be a person with male anatomy identifying as a female and vice versa, or not feeling as though you identify with either gender. This can cause significant stress and disruption to your daily life. 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 all be discussed during assessment and whatever you feel or identify with can be worked through in the specialist therapy.

The internal conflict between how society expects you to act and behave in accordance with your biological sex, in contrast to the gender in which you identify, can often make you feel uncomfortable, and affects people in different ways. There are many ways a person can express their identified gender, including chosen behaviours, dress and self-image, with dressing in the gender in which you identify particularly common. You may be unsure whether your identity would be best expressed materially, such as by wearing opposite-gender clothing (transvestism); or whether it is linked to a type of sexuality (autogynaephilia), or an underlying gender identity (gender dysphoria). A detailed gender dysphoria assessment will help clarify your issues and concerns.

If you have gender dysphoria characterised by persistent and strong feelings that you are in a body in which you don’t identify with, then you may live as a transgender or transsexual person. You may consult gender identity clinics about the option of surgical treatment or hormone therapy to align your physical appearance with your gender identity.

These wishes are usually accompanied by an inclination for social transitioning. This means you may adopt the gender pronouns associated with the gender you identify with, potentially changing the gender you are registered as on your official documents, such as your passport.

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Treatment for gender dysphoria at Priory

Treatment options will vary depending on your needs. The level of treatment required will be assessed individually, to help make you feel comfortable in your gender identity.

Much of the mental health treatment process will depend on how persistent and intense the feelings of dysphoria are, with Priory’s therapy services aimed at guiding you through any associated emotional difficulties you might have with gender dysphoria.

Tailored psychotherapy sessions can explore what it means to be any gender and the discomfort or unhappiness associated with gender dysphoria. The ultimate goal is to provide and promote ongoing support so that you can live out your life in your preferred gender identity. If your gender identity is less fixed, then specialist psychotherapy may be more helpful than physical treatments.

While talking through your feelings surrounding gender identity in an understanding environment may be enough to reduce any distress associated with your biological sex, some may wish to seek out further treatment options. If you are thinking of pursuing, or are currently undergoing, physical treatments at a gender identity clinic, then mental health support can complement this. One-to-one counselling and talking therapies will have an increased focus on any emotional difficulties or anxieties you may be experiencing.

Please note, in cases where those who have already transitioned are wanting to go back to their biological sex (referred to as transgender dysphoria), the specialist gender dysphoria psychotherapy may not be the best option for treatment support. Other services will be better designed to specifically deal with the complexities of these particular struggles.

Dedicated psychotherapy service at The 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 why. This is regardless of any physical treatments that you may currently be undergoing or are thinking about.

The aim of the psychotherapy treatment is to:

  • Provide a supportive thinking and enquiring space to consider gender and how it affects 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 relevant to you
  • Explore and widen a gender repertoire without restricting to binary gender models
  • Give you stability in your bespoke gender identity, irrespective of biological sex or gender framework

You will receive an initial assessment, followed by individual therapy sessions and possibly a weekly therapy group. The service is led by an experienced consultant psychiatrist who is gender aware and transgender-friendly, with over 15 years' experience of working therapeutically with people who have gender identity issues.

This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Az Hakeem (MBBS, FRCPsych, MSc, M.Inst.GA) in June 2020.

What is gender dysphoria?
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Signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria
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What causes gender dysphoria?
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