Gender identity disorder is a conflict between a person’s physical gender and the gender he or she identifies as. For example, a person identified as a boy may actually feel and act like a girl. The person is very uncomfortable with the gender they were born.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
People with gender identity disorder may act and present themselves as members of the opposite sex. The disorder may affect:
Choice of sexual partners
Mannerisms, behavior, and dress
Gender identity disorder is not the same as homosexuality.
Identity conflicts need to continue over time to be a gender identity disorder. How the gender conflict occurs is different in each person. For example, some people may cross-dress while others want sex-change surgery. Some people of one gender privately identify more with the other gender.
People who are born with
The cause is unknown, but hormones in the womb, genes, social and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved. This rare disorder may occur in children or adults.
Symptoms can vary by age, and are affected by the person’s social environment. They may include the following:
- Are disgusted by their own genitals
- Are rejected by their peers, feel alone
- Believe that they will grow up to become the opposite sex
- Say that they want to be the opposite sex
- Dress like the opposite sex
- Feel alone
- Have depression or anxiety
- Want to live as a person of the opposite sex
- Wish to be rid of their own genitals
Either adults or children:
- Cross-dress, show habits typical of the opposite sex
- Withdraw from social interaction
Signs and tests
The feeling of being in the body of the “wrong” gender must last for at least 2 years for this diagnosis to be made. A history and psychiatric evaluation can confirm the person’s constant desire to be the opposite sex. The person’s partner choices may be same sex or opposite sex.
Individual and family therapy is recommended for children to create a supportive environment at home and in school. Individual and, if appropriate, couples therapy is recommended for adults. Sex reassignment through surgery and hormonal therapy is an option, but identity problems may continue after this treatment.
Diagnosing and treating this disorder early can reduce the chances of depression, emotional distress, and suicide.
- Depression or anxiety
- Emotional distress
- Feeling alone
- Poor self-concept
Calling your health care provider
Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of this disorder and want help, especially with anxiety and depression.