Mental health and gender dysphoria: is being transgender considered a mental illness?

Society tends to judge those whom they don’t understand. That’s why transsexuality & homosexuality were considered mental illnesses for way too long. Additionally, there are many myths and misunderstandings related to being trans. As time passed and society became more progressive, the approach to trans people changed drastically, although the relation between mental illness and being transgender remains strong.

How to debunk all the misconceptions about transgender people? Well, discussing this topic may help to dissociate the correlation between mental illness and being transgender. Let’s learn more about trans people and their experiences with mental health issues - the reasons, possible solutions, and misconceptions.

Is being trans considered a disorder?

To understand this topic fully, we need to learn the reasons behind the myth that being transgender is a mental illness. The majority of trans men experience gender dysphoria, which greatly contributes to mental health issues. Body dysphoria causes emotional distress, since the gender assigned at birth conflicts with the gender identity - to put it simply, a person does not feel comfortable in his/her own body.  As a result, gender dysphoria may cause many severe mental health issues, such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Therefore, gender dysphoria may cause mental health issues, nevertheless, it cannot be considered a mental illness or disorder itself. Note that not all FTM transgender people experience gender dysphoria - each trans man experiences a different journey to their true self, and some do not face mental challenges along the way.

Why do trans people experience more mental health issues? Despite gender dysphoria, trans people experience discrimination and intolerance as well. Assuming one’s gender, using the wrong pronouns, treating transgender differently than a cisgender person, insulting contribute to negative outcomes to one’s mental health. On the bright side - there are ways of dealing with negative emotions, caused by body dysphoria and discrimination, but we will discuss the possible solutions a little bit later.

All things considered, gender dysphoria and transsexuality do not meet the definition of mental illness. Although gender dysphoria might cause some mental issues and trans people may be prone to serious mental illnesses because of the conflict of assigned gender and gender identity, not all transgender people are experiencing mental health issues.

FTM gender affirmation

After learning what causes the association between mental health and being transgender, a natural question arises - will affirming my gender fix my mental illness? It is vital not to rely on gender affirmation too heavily and regard it as a solution to mental health problems. Surely, gender affirmation can help feeling more comfortable in your own body, nevertheless, if you’re dealing with serious mental illness, you should seek help from professionals. There is nothing embarrassing to ask for help when you need it. Moreover, you should not feel bad if gender affirmation is not enough to find peace of mind. Remember that each of us has a different journey to our true selves, even more - people of all genders sometimes don’t feel good in their bodies. All in all, it is important to find what helps to affirm your gender and to feel amazing in your skin.

Seeking transgender mental health support, but do not know where and how to begin? Read the informational mental health support sheet and visit the  transgender support groups page. It’s important to note, that you are not alone and there are many trans crisis support sites and mental health specialists, who are ready to help you deal with gender dysphoria and other transgender mental issues.

Trans gender affirmation

How to deal with mental illness when you’re trans and how to help a loved one who is transgender?

In both cases - be supportive. If you are the one who experiences mental health issues, don’t be harsh on yourself. Remember, that mental illness does not define you - you are more than your mental health issues. In the case of loved one dealing with mental issues, be by their side, let them know that they are not alone. Know that you can’t heal them and you shouldn’t even try, however, having someone by your side when you feel down helps to overcome more struggles than you can imagine. 

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