Gender Dysphoria: Treatment

Treatment for gender dysphoria focuses on alleviating the patient’s distress surrounding their gender identity. That often means psychotherapy — and dialectical behavior therapy in particular—in which a therapist validates their emotions and helps them develop effective coping skills, to avoid things like self-injury and suicidality.  If their distress has led to depression or anxiety, those may be treated with therapy or medication. Therapists also work with gender dysphoria patients, and their families, to help them determine the best way to shape their gender expression for the healthiest outcome.

Some patients desire hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery; others do not. Transgender and endocrinology organizations recommend waiting until at least 16 to start hormone treatment, but what is best for the individual needs to be considered. Hormone treatment to suppress puberty for as long as several years is sometimes used to give a patient time to decide whether to do surgery; since it stops the development of secondary sex characteristics — breast development, or the deepening of the voice and growth of facial hair — it also prevents the added distress of a patient’s body acting in a way that does not align with their affirmed gender.