Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
A gender identity disorder is one in which a person wants to be the opposite sex. The person may also believes that he or she is "trapped" in a body of the wrong sex.
What is going on in the body?
Gender identity disorder is a profound disturbance of a person's sense of sexual identity. This disorder can begin as early as 2 years of age.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Gender identity disorder occurs more often in males than in females. No one knows what causes this disorder. Some theories suggest the disorder may be caused by:
imbalances in hormones
problems with early parent-child bonding
harmful child-rearing practices
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
The signs and symptoms of gender identity disorder differ somewhat in children and adults.
express the desire to be the opposite sex
have disgust with their own genitals
believe that they will grow up to become the opposite sex
show a strong preference for playmates of the opposite sex
want to play the stereotypical games of the opposite sex
be rejected by their peer group
desire to live as a person of the opposite sex
believe that he or she was born the wrong sex
wish to be rid of their own genitals
dress like the opposite sex
be heterosexual or homosexual
have low self-esteem
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
A physical exam should be done to see if the person has any other any other condition that could be causing a sex identity problem. The diagnosis of gender identity disorder is made only if the person is distressed or has problems in social, interpersonal, or occupational functioning.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
There is no known prevention for gender identity disorder.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
A person with gender identity disorder is usually isolated. Isolation and ostracism adds to the low self-esteem, and the person is more prone to suicide attempts. The disorder also increases the person's risk for alcohol abuse, drug abuse, depression, and acute situational anxiety generalized anxiety disorder panic disorder post-traumatic stress disorder phobias obsessive compulsive disorders
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What are the risks to others?
There are no risks to others from gender identity disorder.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
Individual and family counseling early in gender identity disorder can often help a person get used to his or her biologic sex. This has been shown to reduce later transsexual behavior and distress.
In more severe cases, a sex-change operation may be an option. This is surgery to change the person's genitals. It also includes giving hormones. However, before this treatment is considered, the person will undergo in-depth psychological and psychiatric evaluation and counseling.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
There are possible side effects with any surgery. These include bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction to the anesthesia.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
A person with gender identity disorder who has a sex-change operation is often able to have good sexual relations. Hormones will be continued after surgery.
How is the condition monitored?
A person with gender identity disorder often needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis.