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Gender Identity Disorder Guide

Gender identity disorder is the clinical diagnosis of a disorder in which patients demonstrate discontentment with their biological sex. Gender identity disorder is a psychiatric disorder classification and the disorder is characterized by behaviors and other factors relating to transsexuality. With gender identity disorder, a biological male or female feels a strong sense of identification with the opposite sex. Gender identity disorder and other identity disorders are thought to affect both children and adults. Adolescents and adults have a different form of the disorder that may intensify over time.

The exact cause of gender identity disorder is not known, and it is thought to affect males more often than females. It is considered to be one of the rarest identity disorders. Identity disorders like gender identity disorder can have an onset in childhood, and many adults and adolescents with the disorder report that they struggle with gender identity problems before they reach adolescence. Those who have gender identity disorder often express a desire to be the opposite sex. They will also often attempt to act and dress like the other sex.

Those with gender identity disorder may also express the desire to change their bodies to be like their desired sex. Those with the disorder may also withdraw socially out of a fear or response to being stigmatized or ridiculed. Treatment for identity disorders such as gender identity disorder involves individual and family psychotherapy for children and different therapies for adults such as hormone replacement therapy and group support along with counseling.

Symptoms of Gender Identity Disorder

Those with gender identity disorder are preoccupied with their desire to live as the opposite sex. Both children and adults show symptoms of identity disorders in different ways. Children may express a desire to wear clothing of the opposite sex. They may also prefer to play with toys of the opposite sex and also prefer friends of the opposite sex. Children also may express disgust at their biological sex but often talk positively about the being the opposite sex.

Adults may desire to alter themselves to be more like the opposite sex through hormones or surgery. Many adults will dress in public as the other sex in an attempt to incorporate social behaviors and function as a member of the opposite sex for a time. They also learn mannerisms and learn how to dress like the opposite sex and will spend large amounts of time and effort learning this.

In adolescents, symptoms of identity disorders such as gender identity disorder may be similar to those presented in adults or children depending on the age of the individual and other factors. Adolescents are often more guarded out of fear of social stigmatization. Diagnosis of gender identity disorder involves a set of criteria by the DSM-IV-TR including but not limited to: identification with another gender that has occurred for a long period of time, impairment at work or social circumstances due to this desire, and discontentment with the person’s socially assigned sex, and other criteria.

Causes of Gender Identity Disorder

Like other identity disorders, there is no clearly understood cause for gender identity disorder. It is thought that there may be a strong genetic or biological component to the disorder. Biological gender is determined by chromosomes with males have an X and a Y chromosome and females having two X chromosomes. Y chromosomes have a particular gene called testes-determining factor (TDF) that when expressed causes the development of male genitals. Those without testes determining factor on their Y chromosome will develop as females.

Gender is determined during the final trimester of pregnancy, and it is during this stage that the male testes release large quantities of hormones that help to further differentiate a male child from a female. These hormones continue to be released in a second surge after birth. It is through that a delay or a shortage in these hormones may result in the incompletion of masculinization of a child, and this may result in gender identity disorder.

Other factors such as socialization and the environment are also thought to play a role. There are various types of reinforcement and other social learning cues that children take from parents and family members in order to learn what is considered appropriate or inappropriate behavior based on the child’s perception of their gender. It is not thought that gender identity disorder can be prevented although it can be treated with several methods. Providing gender appropriate clothing and toys in childhood may or may not reduce the severity of the disorder.

Effects of Gender Identity Disorder

Those who suffer from gender identity disorder deal not only with an internal conflict, but they also often suffer from severe social stigmatization from peers, friends, and family. The disorder can lead to feelings of hurt, isolation, self-esteem problems, and negative self-image problems due to the fear of social prejudice and other related anxieties. Those with the disorder often have to overcome many different forms of anxiety including a fear of abandonment, obsession with gender roles and mannerisms, and other related psychological obstacles.

The development of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression is not uncommon for those with gender identity disorder. The development of these disorders is thought to occur from the social fears and problems that those with the disorder face along with some potential biological causes as well. Family and friend relationships are strongly affected by the disorder. In many cases, friendships may not last and family members may become separated because of the strong emotions that are associated with a person’s acceptance of another’s gender identity.

Those with the disorder typically tremendously benefit from psychotherapy methods to control the cognitive symptoms and other symptoms of the disorder. Family members who are supportive of those with identity disorders offer a better support system and make it easier for the disorder to be treated. Regardless of whether or not family support is provided, most of those who have gender identity disorder are treated with some form of social support.

Treatment for Gender Identity Disorder

Treatment for identity disorders like gender identity disorder involves psychotherapy, medications, and hormone therapy when appropriate. Most children are not placed on hormone therapy due to ethical and safety concerns, however psychotherapy is shown to be effective in treating children with the disorder. Treatment in childhood may be intended for the child to be as comfortable as possible in his or her biological sex role if that is possible and appropriate.

Adults who are placed on hormone therapy are thoroughly evaluated by psychiatrists before the decision is made. Adults may undergo sex reassignment surgery, but the decision to do takes place after the adult lives for some time as the other gender and undergoes hormone treatments for a time as well. Psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and group therapy methods are implemented for a person to have social support networks available, and so they know that they are not alone in their struggle.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other forms of psychotherapy do not attempt to treat the condition as much as they attempt to treat the underlying biological or psychological factors that lead to the development of gender identity conflicts in patients. There are treatment centers that can treat those who have gender identity disorder with the care of licensed psychiatrists and psychologists. Treatment centers for gender identity disorder provide outpatient and inpatient care options to those with gender identity disorder. They also offer various forms of individual and group therapy as well as a safe and compassionate environment for patients.

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