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Gender Identity Disorder

Alternate Names

  • transexualism

Definition

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, in a person with a normal chromosome complement for his or her gender, and not having any physical or endocrine abnormality that would explain the failure of normal development of gender identity. This disorder can begin as early as 2 years of age.

Risks

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:
  • a genetic abnormality
  • imbalances in hormones that are not part of a recognized endocrine disorder
  • problems with early parent-child bonding
  • harmful child-rearing practices

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

There is no known prevention for gender identity disorder.

Diagnosed

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.

Long Term Effects

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 anxiety disorders.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

There are no risks to others from gender identity disorder.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Individual and family counseling early in gender identity disorder can often help a person become comfortable his or her biologic sex. This has been shown to reduce later transsexual behavior and distress.
Complete sex change operations have been used in more severe cases of gender identity disorder that persist into adulthood. This is an elaborate reconstructive surgery to change the person's genitals, undertaken after an extended period of hormone therapy and experimentation with life as a person of the opposite sex. However, before this treatment is considered, the person needs to undergo in-depth psychological and psychiatric evaluation and counseling. .

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

There are possible side effects with any surgery. These include bleeding, infection, and reactions to anesthesia.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

A person with gender identity disorder who has had a sex-change operation is often able to have sexual relations. Hormones will be continued after surgery.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

A person with gender identity disorder often needs to be monitored on an ongoing basis.

Sources

Tierney, Lawrence, editor, "Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment, 39th edition", 2000

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 1997

Professional Guide to Diseases: 6th edition, 1998

Hales, Robert, Textbook of Psychiatry, 2nd edition 1994

Stuart and Sundeen, Principles and Practice of Psychiatric Nursing: 4th edition, 1991 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition, 1994

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