Most of us never gave much thought to our gender identity growing up. As we navigated our way through childhood and adolescence, we felt comfortable – for the most part – aligning with the expected behaviors associated with our gender. However, some people never feel comfortable in their bodies. They firmly believe they’re trapped in the wrong one: individuals with male physical characteristics may feel one hundred percent female, and individuals with female physical characteristics may feel one hundred percent male.
It’s not a fleeting feeling: it’s a deep, continuous, internal sense that some kind of mistake was made, and they’re stuck living a gender every fiber of their being says is the opposite of what it should be. This intense disconnect with their assigned birth gender can cause significant distress – a phenomenon that’s clinically diagnosed as gender dysphoria.
Let’s be clear: a clinical diagnosis of gender dysphoria does not describe the question or questioning of gender itself, but rather describes the distressing emotions that arise when an individual feels they were assigned the wrong gender at birth.
We’ll put it another way.
At Evolve, we treat teens for gender dysphoria – we don’t treat teens for being transgender.
Treatment for gender dysphoria isn’t about changing your teen’s gender identity or influencing how your teen feels about their identity.
Treatment for gender dysphoria is about helping them manage the difficult emotions that can arise as a result of being transgender – and that’s a big difference.
Professional Support Helps
Life for teens with gender dysphoria can be extremely challenging. Parents are often baffled and worried. They want to ease their child’s pain, but they’re not sure what to do to help. Individuals with gender dysphoria often have another mental health disorder as well, such as depression, anxiety, specific phobias, substance use disorders, posttraumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or an eating disorder.
That’s why it’s important to get help for these teens: evidence shows treatment helps manage symptoms of all these disorders, which can only help to ease the distress gender dysphoria may cause.
What to Look For
Parents who think their teen may be experiencing gender dysphoria should watch for the following signs:
- Conviction they were born the wrong gender
- Strong, persistent discomfort with their own gender
- Feelings of disgust with their genitals
- Avoiding activities that would require them to touch or see their genitals (e.g. having sex or taking showers)
- Preoccupation with ridding their body of primary and secondary sex characteristics through surgery, hormones, or other medical procedures
- A deep-seated belief that they feel and react in ways typical of the opposite gender, including the expressed desire that others treat them and refer to them as their gender identity
- Expressed desire to live as their gender identity, including dressing and altering their outward appearance to pass as their gender identity
- Feelings of social isolation, compounded by distress caused by the conflict between their assigned gender and the gender they identify with
- The internal conflict causes impairment in one or more significant areas of life
- The desire to be the opposite gender is not due to social or cultural benefits or advantages associated with the other gender or related to a physical intersex condition
Additional signs of gender dysphoria may include:
- School aversion
- Low self-esteem
- Non-suicidal self-harm (e.g. cutting, burning)
- Depressed mood
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors*
*Suicidal thoughts or behaviors should never be ignored. Don’t assume your teen is just being “dramatic” or manipulative. The risk of suicide is particularly high for teens suffering from gender dysphoria.
Inpatient Mental Health Treatment
Treatment for gender dysphoria in teens often involves a multidisciplinary approach, including both medical and mental health professionals as well as other specialists.
At Evolve, we welcome your teen as they are and who they are. We offer a full range of evidence-based therapies proven effective for adolescents, delivered by compassionate professionals with experience working with LGBTQI+ teens.
Our goal is to help your teen cope with the distress caused by gender dysphoria so that they can live their life as the person they know, deep in their bones, they truly are.
Help Is Just a Phone Call Away
Call Us (800) 665-4769
Our clinical director, Dr. Lauren Kerwin, has more than 20 years of experience with adolescents. She’s developed innovative programs and has the expertise to implement a wide range of effective modes of therapy that give teens the tools to manage uncomfortable emotions, succeed in school, maintain better relationships, improve self-esteem, set healthy goals, make constructive choices, and commit to lifelong positive change.
A Positive Step Forward
The decision to place your child in treatment is not easy. You’re probably on an emotional rollercoaster right now, filled with conflicting emotions, unsure of which way to turn. We hope to help your teenager, but we hope to help you, too. We’ll give you tools to work through your feelings as your child works through theirs.
We’ll help your whole family heal and grow. When you enroll your teenager in one of our Adolescent mental health treatment programs, the Evolve team becomes your extended family. We’ll be with you through your entire treatment journey.
We know you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t ready for a change.
We’re ready, willing, and able to offer you that change. Call us now to begin the journey back to peace, health, harmony.
Evolve Inpatient Treatment Center Locations