Gender dysphoria treatment

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This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (MBBS, MCRPsych, BSc Hons), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, in March 2024.

What is gender dysphoria?

Gender dysphoria is the description used for the discomfort that's experienced by someone whose gender doesn't 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.

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 can affect people in different ways. There are lots of ways someone 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 engagement with our team can help you understand what's 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.

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's neither male nor female, and may be a combination of both. This is often referred to as 'non-binary' or 'gender fluid', but there are many other definitions that can also be used.

Signs and symptoms of gender dysphoria

While there are no physical symptoms of gender dysphoria, the effect it can have on your emotions and behaviours can cause significant disruption to your daily life.

The common emotional symptoms of gender dysphoria can include:

  • Feeling that your gender identity doesn't align with the sex you were assigned at birth
  • Being more comfortable when you're in the role of your authentic gender identity
  • Having a strong desire to hide, change, or eradicate the physical manifestations of the sex you were assigned at birth

Signs of gender dysphoria

When signs of gender dysphoria are experienced past puberty and into adulthood, it often confirms that the behaviours and feelings you experienced in childhood weren’t just part of growing up. If you're an adult with gender dysphoria, there's sometimes less confusion regarding your gender identity and how you want to be perceived by others. For some people, dysphoric feelings can begin later in life. Onset of dysphoria can occur at any time, and whenever this happened for you is valid. Your identity and authentic expression of this, and the decision to engage with services is right for you, whenever it occurs.

Having more certain feelings and active behaviours, such as living in your authentic gender identity, can help you feel more comfortable about, and confident in how you wish to approach the situation.

Understanding dysphoric feelings

Gender dysphoria refers to a conflict between a person’s assigned sex at birth, and the gender with which they identify. This may cause emotional and psychological distress due to your assigned sex not feeling accurate with your gender identity and presentation.

Children, young people and adults can experience gender dysphoria. Some people with gender dysphoria find discussing their feelings and understanding of their gender identity can be enough to help them feel comfortable with their assigned sex, without the need for any physical treatments.

The emotions associated with gender dysphoria can be expressed in many different ways, allowing you to show the gender you feel you belong to. This could be through using clothing to express a more authentic self, and a wish to use a name and pronoun which fits with the gender you identify with.

The particular challenges you may face if you are diagnosed with gender dysphoria may include experiencing external and internal oppression. This may affect your confidence and you are at greater risk of developing anxiety and depression, perhaps mirroring any feelings of isolation.

You may also encounter difficulties at school or work due to the emotional distress gender dysphoria can cause. This may mean everyday tasks become more difficult as you struggle to feel comfortable in the identity assigned at birth. Dysphoria may affect your relationships, whereby friends and partners may encounter challenges when it comes to adapting to and accepting changes in you and your ways of being, as you work towards changing gender.

What causes gender dysphoria?

There are many reasons you may grow up with gender dysphoria. Gender development and how you identify with your physical self, as well as your emotional self, is part of a complex maturational process.

Treatment for gender dysphoria at Priory

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 can help you to understand what's happening for you, and your feelings and responses to this.

Gender dysphoria isn’t always about identifying with the opposite sex; there's 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 can support you in finding this.

Treatment options will vary depending on your wishes and any goals you have. The level of treatment you need will be assessed individually, to help make you feel comfortable in your gender identity. Your treatment belongs to you and at every stage, you'll 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 that's authentic for you.

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.

Private medical insurance

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers. All of the services we offer at Priory can be funded through private medical insurance. This includes:

  • Mental health treatment
  • Addiction treatment
  • Eating disorder treatment

All clients will have access to our highly skilled and accredited clinicians, many of whom are published experts in their fields of treatment. Whatever your requirements, we're committed to working with you to get your life back on track.

Registered and approved provider

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers.

Gender dysphoria treatment near me

We support people with gender dysphoria throughout the country, meaning that you can access the support you need in a convenient location. To find your nearest gender dysphoria treatment centre, please search below.

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