Gender Dysphoria Treatment for Teens and Young Adults
How is gender dysphoria diagnosed?
Gender dysphoria is typically diagnosed through a clinical evaluation by a mental health or healthcare professional. This involves assessing a person’s experiences and feelings related to their gender identity, including any distress or discomfort associated with their gender assigned at birth. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) outlines the complete diagnostic criteria. Diagnosis of gender dysphoria is not meant to pathologize being transgender but to make it easier for people to get the healthcare and support they need, like hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgery.
What are the best options for gender dysphoria treatment?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help those with gender dysphoria address negative thoughts and beliefs about their gender, reduce anxiety and depression, and learn healthy coping strategies. In the treatment of gender dysphoria, CBT can help people change self-critical thoughts, address gender-related fears, and build resilience against societal and self-imposed gender pressures. CBT can improve mental well-being, help people develop a more positive relationship with gender identity, and make transitioning, if desired, easier.
Gender-affirming therapy is designed to support people with gender dysphoria in their gender identity exploration and transition. It supports a person’s true gender identity, helps them develop coping skills, and enables them to make informed choices about medical treatments like hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries. This therapy also offers a safe place to discuss challenges and discrimination faced by transgender and gender-diverse people, improving mental well-being and their connection with their gender identity.
When someone has gender dysphoria, family therapy creates a safe space for family members to provide emotional support and learn about gender diversity. By involving the family, therapy can reduce stress and isolation for transgender and gender-diverse people, making their home environment more supportive. It also helps families navigate the challenges of the person’s gender transition and promotes healthier, more inclusive relationships, which can significantly improve the person’s well-being.
In their words
Client & family testimonials
“Every bit of it is so worth it.”
“I’ve been struggling with depression and my mental health for about ten years. I’ve been in four different inpatient facilities; my most recent therapist said she hadn’t seen any improvement and was giving up on me as a client. I was in the psychiatric hospital for a week before being discharged, and part of my discharge plan was to attend Charlie Health. I was hesitant at first, I had always been told to avoid online therapy, just because it lacked the connection that in-person experiences had, but I live in a rural area, and the opportunity to connect with other people of the LGBTQ+ community who were struggling with the same experiences I was sounded too good to pass up. Charlie Health’s group therapy has helped me in so many ways. Not just with getting to meet people in the same community as me, even though that alone is amazing and an experience that should be treasured on its own. The group facilitators are all experienced and have their own stories to tell, and their own expertise to share. Every client that comes through has their own unique story, their own unique perspective on the world, their own unique identity that you get to learn. Hearing these stories, learning from these people – you don’t realize it at first, but it’s all part of the process. Every bit of it is so worth it.”
“Charlie Health succeeded where other programs failed me.”
Charlie Health provided me with an invaluable sense of safety and community as an LGBT+ person. It is so hard for people to seek mental health treatment to begin with and being a part of marginalized communities can make that even more difficult. Charlie Health succeeded where other programs failed me in making me feel safe and secure in my identity, and with connecting me with other people who shared my identities and struggles and could really empathize and provide helpful feedback.
“I feel healed in my heart.”
Charlie Health saved my life from being filled with self-doubt and my worst impulsive thoughts. I found people who really got it and just wanted to see me thrive. People who helped me really understand in my body and mind that I wasn’t crazy but that I really survived abuse. I think this program and the staff and clients alongside me are some of the people I can confidently say I will always hold in the highest esteem. I will remember every moment of this experience because I truly believe that I met the most compassionate and loving people I will ever know. Thank you to you all, I feel healed in my heart.
How does Charlie Health treat gender dysphoria?
At Charlie Health, we work with our clients experiencing gender dysphoria using multimodal approaches that include recognition, psychological support, and affirmation.
Supportive groups and affirming clinicians allow space for clients with shared lived experiences to share stories, receive support, and pursue healing in the context of a supportive community.
Virtual treatment can bring members of gender-diverse communities the opportunities to connect across distance and can be helpful for clients experiencing significant secondary anxiety, depression, or other conditions that make accessing brick-and-mortar treatment tough.
Zoom filters, pronoun affirmation, avatars, and the possibility of turning the camera off on a bad day are all ways that our clients experiencing dysphoria say that virtual treatment shines.
What are the challenges of treating gender dysphoria?
One of the primary challenges in treating gender dysphoria is that access to gender-affirming healthcare can be limited, and discrimination in healthcare settings can make it harder to get the care needed. Also, since people with gender dysphoria often face disproportionate psychological distress and social challenges, clinicians may need to create treatment plans that include medical, psychological, and social components, which can be complex.
How effective is therapy for treating gender dysphoria?
Gender-affirming therapy can be quite effective in helping people deal with the distress associated with gender dysphoria, providing emotional support, and helping with decisions about medical interventions. However, for some, therapy alone may not address all aspects of gender dysphoria, and they may choose medical treatments like hormone therapy or surgery to align their bodies with their gender identity.
FAQs on gender dysphoria
What are the main types of gender dysphoria?
The DSM-5 defines three main types of gender dysphoria:
- Gender dysphoria in children
- Gender dysphoria in adolescents and adults
- Gender dysphoria not otherwise specified
The first two diagnoses categorize gender dysphoria by age. The third category encompasses various experiences of gender dysphoria that don’t fit neatly into the above two categories.
What are the main symptoms of gender dysphoria?
The main symptoms of gender dysphoria are ongoing feelings of distress or discomfort with
- One’s gender as assigned at birth
- One’s body (specifically primary/secondary sex characteristics)
- One’s expected gender roles
These symptoms can cause emotional distress, anxiety, and depression and affect a person’s ability to function in the world, highlighting the importance of providing gender-affirming care and support to those experiencing gender dysphoria.
How common is gender dysphoria?
According to the DSM-5, gender dysphoria is diagnosed in 0.005–0.014% of people assigned male at birth and 0.002–0.003% of people assigned female at birth worldwide. However, the prevalence of gender dysphoria varies between different groups, and it’s not easy to pinpoint due to underreporting and differences in diagnosis. As society becomes more aware and accepting of gender diversity, more people are getting diagnosed and receiving the care and support they need.
What causes gender dysphoria?
Being transgender or having gender dysphoria isn’t a choice; it’s a fundamental part of who a person is. The causes of gender dysphoria aren’t completely clear but are likely a mix of genetics, hormones, and environment.
Can anyone have gender dysphoria?
Yes. Anyone can have gender dysphoria, though it most commonly affects transgender and gender-diverse people. Those who don’t experience a mismatch between their gender assigned at birth and gender identity won’t be diagnosed with gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria treatment at Charlie Health
If you or a loved one are facing gender dysphoria, Charlie Health is here to support you.
Our virtual Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) provides comprehensive therapy and assistance for individuals dealing with complex mental health needs, including those experiencing gender dysphoria. We are proud to support the LGBTQIA+ community with affirming care and industry-leading clinical curriculum to support their unique needs.
Charlie Health’s skilled clinicians employ evidence-based therapies in group sessions, individual counseling, and family therapy to promote holistic, long-term well-being. Coping with gender dysphoria can be a difficult journey, but remember: you are not alone and help is within reach. Get started today on your path toward healing and acceptance today.