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Gender identity disorder

Contents of this page:


Male and female reproductive systems
Male and female reproductive systems

Alternative Names    Return to top


Definition    Return to top

Gender identity disorder is a conflict between a person's actual physical gender and the one they actually identify him or herself as. For example, a person identified as a boy may actually feel and act like a girl.

See also: Intersex

Causes    Return to top

People with gender identity disorder may act and present themselves as members of the opposite sex. The disorder may affect:

Gender identity disorder is not the same as homosexuality.

Identity issues can occur in many situations and appear in different ways. For example, some people with normal genitalia and sexual characteristics (such as breasts) of one gender privately identify more with the other gender.

Some people may cross-dress, and some may seek sex-change surgery. Others are born with ambiguous genitalia, which can raise identity issues.

The cause is unknown, but hormones in the womb, genes, and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved. The rare disorder may occur in children or adults.

Symptoms    Return to top



Either adults or children:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The feeling of being in the body of the "wrong" gender must last for at least 2 years for this diagnosis to be made. A history and psychiatric evaluation can confirm the person's constant desire to be the opposite sex. The person's partner choices may be same sex or opposite sex.

Treatment    Return to top

Individual and family counseling is recommended for children, and individual or couples therapy is recommended for adults. Sex reassignment through surgery and hormonal therapy is an option, but identity problems may continue after this treatment.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

Diagnosing and treating this disorder early can lead to a better outcome.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of this disorder and want help, especially with anxiety and depression.

Update Date: 2/6/2008

Updated by: Christos Ballas, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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