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Transexualism - Gender Identity Disorder

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:

  • chromosomal abnormality
  • 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.

    Children may:

  • 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
  • feel isolated
  • be depressed
  • Adults may:

  • 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
  • feel isolated
  • be depressed
  • be withdrawn
  • 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.

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