Assigned gender is the gender attributed to an individual at birth, it’s what is written on a birth certificate for example.
BiologicalThere appears to be a number of biological factors that contribute to gender. These include sex chromosomes, hormones, genetic and epigenetic factors. Epigenetics refers to how our environment impacts the expression of our genes. The foveal and infant brains appear to be particularly sensitive to sex hormones. Sexual maturation trajectories can differ, especially as there are so many variables.
PsychosocialSocial and psychological factors can all play a role in how a young person experiences gender.
Here are some examples of how these psychosocial factors can play a part.
- Gender-specific clothing, colours of the child’s items, toys and haircut all go some way towards influencing gender. A child who has short hair and boy clothes will be reinforced that their gender is male.
- Verbal labelling such as son or daughter, boy or girl can go a long way towards reiterating the gender.
- Going to gender-specific schools, having gender-specific experiences can influence how someone sees themselves. For instance, going to football practice twice weekly with a group of other boys will easily impact how a child views themselves with regards to their gender.
- Cultural, familial factors are likely to play a role. There are varying degrees of openness and as a result suppression of gender variance, depending on where one lives.
- Educational, awareness and maturity level. Until recently, with the help of the internet, there are communication and learning about gender variance. This has likely led to more people understanding their distress and seeking help.
In this article, we will cover various roles mental health professionals can play in helping adults with gender dysphoria.
- Assist to clarify and understand the person’s commitment to changes in gender.
- As part of the consent to the treatment process, it is important that there is an awareness of the treatment options and alternatives that are considering. Therapists will explore these with you and want to understand your choice.
- Psychologists can help with coming out to co-workers, friends and family members. You can do this by helping to better understand the interpersonal dynamics and the use of role-plays as practice.
- Family therapists can help with couples counselling, help with family dynamics. Sometimes when adult parents transition it can impact their children, it’s important to consider and address the child’s needs.
- Sometimes psychiatrists involve in determining eligibility for certain hormones or surgical procedures. Usually, this depends on the local laws and regulations.
- Ensuring preparedness for changes, both psychological and social, from gender reassignment therapies.
- Complete a thorough assessment of overall mental health and wellbeing. Gender variance associates with higher rates of mood and anxiety concerns.
To help with diagnosis clinicians use the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 diagnostic criteria.
In that diagnostic manual the following criteria are looked for:
- A strong wish to change one’s primary or secondary characteristics due to a mismatch with one’s own experience of one sexual characteristic
- A wish to be of a different gender to the one assigned at birth.
- A desire to be treated differently from one’s assigned gender.
- A strong view that one has the typical emotions, thought processes and reactions to that of a gender different to the assigned gender.
Sometimes there is ambivalence or ambiguity around gender. A therapist can provide an environment that is open yet containing for a person to explore options
Some people who are struggling with gender variance and identity concerns can benefit from support groups. Mental health clinicians can direct people toward and also facilitate peer-led groups. Gender dysphoria can be an isolating experience, being involved in groups can help.
As mentioned above, gender dysphoria is associated with higher rates of mental illness. Oftentimes positive psychology techniques and other attempts to improve resilience can help.
Adjustment in hormone levels for those transitioning can lead to changes in mental state. For instance, excessive use of male hormones like testosterone is linked to manic and or psychotic episodes.
Gender dysphoria is a common condition that can cause significant psychological distress. Stigma, both discriminatory and self-stigmatization can lead to mental anguish. At Epsychiatry appointments can be organized for you to speak to a psychologist or a psychiatrist regarding gender. Contact our friendly support team to learn more.