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Friday, May 2, 2014

The DSM-5 on Gender Dysphoria

The psychiatric manual of the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM-5, includes a very important chapter on gender dysphoria, transgender and transsexual. It is actually used  actively by transgender people in the transgender debate, but since it is not easily available we face a democratic problem. Some transsexual separatists are, for instance, misrepresenting the text in order to strengthen their own agenda.
DSM-5, cover.

I have therefore decided to make the most relevant sections of the chapter available as a service to my readers.

Special thanks to Brenda Lana Smith, who has transcribed significant parts of the text!

The text is presented as it is in the original, but I have added new paragraph divides in order to increase screen readability.

Click here to buy the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition, DSM-5, Extract of Chapter on Gender Dysphoria

[p 451] In this chapter, there is one overreaching diagnosis of gender dysphoria, with separate developmentally approporiate criteria sets for children and for adolescents and adults. The area of sex and gender is highly controversial and has led to a proliferation of terms whose meanings vary over time and within and between disciplines. An additional source of confusion is that in English "sex" connotes both male /female and sexuality.

This chapter employs constructs and terms as they are widely used by clinicians from various disciplines with specialization in this area. In this chapter sex and sexual refers to biological indicators of male and female (understood in the context of reproductive capacity), such as in chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and nonambigious internal and external genitalia. 

Disorders of sex development denote conditions of inborn somatic deviations of the reproductive tract from the norm and/or discrepancies among the biological indicators of male and female. Cross-sex hormone treatment denotes the use of feminizing hormones in an individual assigned male at birth based on traditional biological indicators or the use of masculinizing hormones in an individual assigned female at birth.

The need to introduced the term gender arose with the realization that for individuals with conflicting or ambiguous biological indicators of sex (i.e. "intersex"), the lived role in society and/or the identification as male or female could not be uniformly associated with or predicted from the biological indicators and, later, that some individuals develop and identity as female or male at variance with their uniform set of classical biological indicators. Thus, gender is used to denote the public (and usually legally recognized) lived role as boy or girl, man or woman, but, in contrast to certain social constructionist theories, biological factors are seen to contributing, in interaction with social and psychological factors, to gender development.   

Gender assignment refers to the initial assignment as male or female. This occurs usually at birth and, thereby, yields the "natal gender". 

Gender-atypical refers to somatic behaviors that are not typical (in a statistical sense) of individuals with the same assigned gender in a given society and historical era; for behaviors that are not typical (in a statistical sense) of individuals with the same assigned gender in a given society and historical era; for behavior, gender-nonconforming is an alternative descriptive term.

Gender reassignment denotes an official (and usually legal) change of gender.

Gender identity is a category of social identity and refers to an individual's identification as male, female, or, occasionally, some category other than male or female.

Gender dysphoria as a general descriptive term refers to an individual's affective/cognitive discontent with the assigned gender but is more specifically defined when used as a diagnostic category.

Transgender refers to the broad spectrum of individuals who transiently or persistently identify with a gender different from their natal gender.

Transsexual denotes an individual who seeks, or has undergone, a social transition from male to female or female to male, which in many, but not all, cases also involves a somatic transition by cross-sex hormone treatment and genital surgery (sex reassignment surgery).

Gender dysphoria  refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one's experienced or expressed gender and one's assigned gender. Although not all individuals will experience distress as result of such incongruence, many are distressed if the desired physical interventions by means of hormones and/or surgery are not available. The current term is more descriptive than the previous DSM-IV term gender identity disorder and focuses on dysphoria as the clinical problem, not identity per se. 

Diagnostic Criteria

[p. 452] Gender Dysphoria in Children 302.6 (F64.2)

[Not included here].

Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Adults 302.95 (F64.1)

A. A marked incongruence between one's experience/expressed gender and assigned gender, of at least 6 months' duration, as manifested by at least two of the following:

1. A marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (or in young adolescents, the anticipated sex characteristics).

2. A strong desire to be rid of one's primary and /or secondary sex characteristics because of a marked incongruence with one's experienced/expressed gender (or in young adolescents, a desire to prevent the development of the anticipated secondary sex characteristics)

3. A strong desire for the primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender.

4. A strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one's assigned gender).

5. A strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one's assigned gender).

6. A strong conviction that one has the typical feelings and reactions of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one's assigned gender).

[p. 453] B. The condition is associated with clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Specify if:
With a disorder of sex development (e.g., a congenital adrenogenital disorder such as 255.2 [E25.0] congenital adrenal hyperplasia or 259.50 [E.34.50] androgen insensitivity syndrome).
Coding note: Code the disorder of sex development as well as gender dysphoria.

Specify if:
Posttransition: The individual has transitioned to full-time living in the desired gender (with or without legalization of gender change) and has undergone (or is preparing to have) at least one cross-sex medical procedure or treatment regimen—namely, regular cross-sex hormone treatment or gender reassignment surgery confirm the desired gender (e.g., penectomy, vaginoplasty in a natal male, phalloplasty in a natal female).


The posttransition specifier may be used in the context of continuing treatment procedures that serve to support the new gender assignment.

Diagnostic Features

Individuals with gender dysphoria have a marked incongruence between the gender they have been assigned to (usually at birth, referred to a natal gender) and their experience/expressed gender. This discrepancy is the core component of the diagnosis. The must also be evidence of distress about this incongruence. 

Experienced gender may include alternative gender identities beyond binary stereotypes. Consequently, the distress is not limited to a desire to simply be of the other gender, but may include a desire to be of an alternative gender, provided that differs from the individual's assigned gender.

Gender dysphoria manifests itself differently in different age groups.

Prepubertal natal girls with gender dysphoria may express the wish to be a boy, assert they are a boy, or assert they will grow up to be a man. They prefer boys' clothing and hairstyles, are often perceived by strangers as boys, and may ask to be called by a boy's name. Usually, the display intense negative reactions to parental attempts to have them wear dresses or other feminine attire. Some may refuse to attend school or social events where such clothes are required.

These girls may demonstrate marked cross-gender identification in role-playing, dreams, and fantasies. Contact sports, rough-and-tumble play, traditional boyhood games, and boys as playmates are most often preferred. They show little interest in stereotypically feminine toys (e.g., dolls) or activities (e.g., feminine dress-up or role-play). Occasionally, they refuse to urinate in a sitting position. Some natal girls may express a desire to have a penis or claim to have a penis or that they will grow one when older. They may also state that they do not want to develop breasts or menstruate.

Prepubertal natal boys with gender dysphoria may wish to be a girl or assert they are a girl or that they will grow up to be a woman. They have a preference for dressing in girls' or women's clothes or may improvise clothing from available materials (e.g., using towels, aprons, and scarves for long hair or skirts). These children may role-play female figures (e.g., playing "mother') and often are intensely interested in female fantasy figures.

Traditional feminine activities, stereotypical games, and pastimes (e.g., "playing house"; drawing feminine pictures, watching television or videos of favorite female characters) are most often preferred. Stereotypical female-type dolls (e.g., Barbie) are often favorite toys, and girls are their preferred playmates. They avoid rough-and-tumble play and competitive sports and have little interest in stereotypically masculine toys (e.g., cars and trucks). Some may pretend not to have a penis and insist on sitting to urinate. More [p. 454] rarely, they may state that they find their penis or testes disgusting that they wish them removed, or that they have, or wish to have a vagina.

In young adolescents with gender dysphoria, clinical features may resemble those of children or adults with the condition, depending on developmental level. As secondary sex characteristics of young adolescents are not yet fully developed, this individuals may not state dislike of them, but they are concerned about imminent physical changes.

In adults with gender dysphoria, the discrepancy between experienced gender and physical sex characteristics is often, but not always, accompanied by a desire to be rid of primary and/or secondary sex characteristics and/or a strong desire to acquire some primary and/or secondary sex characteristics of the other gender. 

To varying degrees, adults with gender dysphoria may adopt the behavior, clothing, and mannerisms of the experienced gender. They feel uncomfortable being regarded by others, or function in society, as members of their assigned gender. Some adults may have a strong desire to be of a different gender and treated as such, and they may have an inner certainty to feel and respond as the experienced gender without seeking medical treatment to alter body characteristics. They may find other ways to resolve the incongruence between experienced/expressed and assigned gender by partially living in the desired role or by adopting a gender role neither conventionally male nor conventionally female.

Associated Features Supporting Diagnosis

When visible signs of puberty develop, natal boys may shave their legs at the first signs of hair growth. They sometimes bind their genitals to make erections less visible. Girls may bind their breasts, walk with a stoop, or use loose sweaters to make breasts less visible. Increasingly, adolescents request, or may obtain without medical prescription and supervision, hormonal suppressors ("blockers") of gonadal steroids (e.g., gonadotropin-releasing hormone [GnRH] analog, spironolactone). 

Clinically referred adolescents often want hormone treatment and many also wish for gender reassignment surgery. Adolescents living in an accepting environment may openly express the desire to be and be treated as the experienced gender and dress partly or completely as the experienced gender, have a hairstyle typical of the experienced gender, preferentially see friendship with peers of the other gender, and adopt a new first name consistent with the experienced gender. 

Older adolescents when sexually active, usually do not show or allow partners to touch their sexual organs. For adults with an aversion toward their genitals, sexual activity is constrained by the preference that their genitals not be seen or touched by their partners. Some adults may seek hormone treatment (sometimes without medical prescription and supervision) and gender reassignment surgery. Others are satisfied with either hormone treatment or surgery alone.

Adolescents and adults with gender dysphoria before gender reassignment are at increased risk for suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicides. After gender reassignment, adjustment may vary, and suicide risk may persist.


For natal adult males, prevalence ranges from 0.005% to 0.014%, and for natal females from 0.002% to 0.003%. Since not all adults seeking hormone treatment and surgical reassignment attend specialty clinics, clinics vary by age group. In children, sex ratios of natal boys to girls range from 2:1 to 4.5:1. In adolescents, the sex ratio is close to parity in adults, the sex ratio favors natal males, with ratios ranging from 1:1 to 6.1:1. In two countries, the sex ratio appears to favor natal females (Japan 2.2:1; Poland 3.4:1).

Development and Course

Because expression of gender dysphoria varies with age, there are separate criteria sets for children versus adolescents and adults. Criteria for children are defined in a more concrete, [p. 455] behavioral manner than those for adolescents and adults. 

Many of the core criteria draw on well-document behavioral gender differences between typically developing boys and girls. Young children are less likely than older children, adolescents, and adults to express extreme and persistent anatomic dysphoria. In adolescents and adults, incongruence between experienced gender and somatic sex is a central feature of the diagnosis. Factors relate to distress and impairment also vary with age. A very young child may show signs of distress (e.g., intense crying) only when parents tell the child that he or she is "really" not a member of the other gender but only "desires" to be. Distress may not be manifest in social environment support of the child's desire to live in the role of the other gender and may emerge only if the desire is interfered with. 

In adolescents and adults, distress may manifest because of strong incongruence between experienced gender and somatic sex. Such distress may, however, be mitigated by supportive environments and knowledge that biomedical treatments exist to reduce incongruence. Impairment (e.g., school refusal, development of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse) may be a consequence of gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria without a disorder of sex development. For clinic-referred children, onset of cross-gender behaviors is usually between ages 2 and 4 years. This corresponds to the development time period in which most typically developing children begin expressing gendered behaviors and the expressed desire to be the other gender may be present, or, more rarely, labeling oneself as a member of the other gender may occur. In some cases, the expressed desire to be the other gender appears later, usually at entry into elementary school.

A small minority of children express discomfort with their sexual anatomy or will state the desire to have a sexual anatomy corresponding to the experienced gender ("anatomic dysphoria"). Expressions of anatomic dysphoria become more common as children with gender dysphoria approach and anticipate puberty.

Rates of persistence of gender dysphoria from childhood into adolescence or adulthood vary. In natal males 12% to 50%. Persistence of gender dysphoria is modestly correlated with dimensional measures of severity ascertained at the time of a childhood baseline assessment. In one sample of natal males, lower socioeconomic background was also modestly correlated with persistence.

It is unclear if particular therapeutic approaches to gender dysphoria in children are related to rates of long-term persistence. Extant follow-up samples consisted of children receiving no formal therapeutic intervention or receiving therapeutic interventions of various types, ranging from active efforts to reduce gender dysphoria to a more neutral, "watchful waiting" approach. It is unclear if children "encouraged" or support to live socially in the desired gender will show higher rates of persistence, since such children have not yet been followed longitudinally in a systematic manner.

For both natal male and female children showing persistence, almost all are usually attracted to individuals of their natal sex. For natal male children whose gender dysphoria does not persist, the majority are androphilic (sexually attracted to males) and often self-identify as gay or homosexual (ranging from 63% to 100%). In natal female children whose gender dysphoria does not persist, the percentage who are gynephilic (sexually attracted to females) and self-identify as gay or homosexual (ranging from 32% to 50%).

In both adolescent and adult natal males, there are two broad trajectories for development of gender dysphoria: early onset and late onset, Early-onset gender dysphoria starts in childhood and continues into adolescence and adulthood; or, there is and intermittent period in which the gender dysphoria desists and these individuals self-identify as gay or homosexual, followed by a recurrence of gender dysphoria.

Late-onset gender dysphoria occurs around puberty or much later in life. Some of these individuals report having had a desire to be of the other gender in childhood that was not expressed verbally to others. Others do not recall any signs of childhood gender dysphoria. For adolescent males with late-onset gender dysphoria, parent often report surprise because they did not see signs of gender [p. 456]  dysphoria during childhood. Expressions of anatomic dysphoria are more common and salient in adolescents and adults once secondary sex characteristics have developed.

Adolescent and adult natal males with early-onset gender dysphoria are almost always sexually attracted to men (androphilic). Adolescents and adults with late-onset gender dysphoria frequently engage in transvestic behavior with sexual excitement. The majority of these individual are gynephlic, or sexually attracted to other posttransition natal males with late-onset gender dysphoria. A substantial percentage of adult males with late-onset gender dysphoria cohabit with or are married to natal females. After gender transition, many self-identify as lesbian. Among adult natal males with gender dysphoria, the early-onset group seeks out clinical care for hormone treatment and reassignment surgery at an earlier age than does the late onset group. The late-onset group may have more fluctuations in the degree of gender dysphoria and be more ambivalent about and less likely satisfied after gender reassignment surgery.

In both adolescent and adult natal females, the most common course is the early-onset form of gender dysphoria. The late-onset form is much less common in natal females compared to natal males. As in natal males with gender dysphoria, there may have been a period in which the gender dysphoria, clinical consultation is sought, often with the desire for hormone treatment and reassignment surgery. Parents of natal adolescent females with the late-onset form also report surprise, as no signs of childhood gender dysphoria were evident. Expressions of anatomic dysphoria are much more common and salient in adolescents and adults than in children.

Adolescent and adult natal females with early-onset gender dysphoria are almost always gynephilic. Adolescents and adults with the late-onset form of gender dysphoria are usually androphilic, and after gender self-identify as gay men. Natal females with late-onset form do not have co-occurring transvestic behavior with sexual excitement.

Gender dysphoria in association with a disorder of sex development. Most individuals with a disorder of sex development who develop gender dysphoria have already come to medical attention at an early age. For many, starting at birth, issues of gender assignment were raised by physicians and parents. Moreover, as infertility is quite common for the group, physicians are more willing to perform cross-sex hormone treatments and genital surgery before adulthood.

Disorder of sex development in general are frequently associated with gender-atypical behavior starting in early childhood. However, in the majority of cases, this does not lead to gender dysphoria. As individuals with a disorder of sex development become aware of their medical history and condition, many experience uncertainty about their gender. However, most do not progress to gender transition. Gender dysphoria and gender transition may vary considerably as a function of a disorder of sex development, its severity, and assigned gender.

Risk and Prognostic Factors

Temperamental. For individuals with gender dysphoria without a disorder of sex development, atypical gender behavior among individuals with early-onset gender dysphoria develops in early preschool age, and it is possible that a high degree of atypicality makes the development of gender dysphoria and its persistence in adolescence and adulthood likely.

Environmental. Among individuals with gender dysphoria without a disorder of sex development, males with gender dysphoria (in both childhood and adolescence) more commonly have older brothers than do males without the condition. Additional predisposing [p 457] factors under consideration, especially in individuals with late-onset gender dysphoria (adolescence, adulthood), include habitual fetishistic transvestism developing in autgynephilia (i.e., sexual arousal associated with the thought or image of oneself as a woman) and other forms more general social, psychological, or developmental problems.

Genetic and physiological. For individuals with gender dysphoria without a disorder of sex development, some genetic contribution is suggested by evidence for (weak) familiality of transsexualism among nontwin siblings, increased concordance for transsexualism in monozygotic compared with dizygotic same-sex twins, and some degree of heritability of gender dysphoria. As to endocrine findings, no endogenous systemic abnormalities increased androgen levels have been found in 46,XY individuals, whereas there appear to be an increased androgen levels (in the range found in hirsute women but far below normal male levels) in 46,XX individuals. Overall, current evidence is insufficient to label gender dysphoria without a disorder of sex development as a for of intersexuality limited to central nervous system.

In gender dysphoria associated with a disorder of sex development, the likelihood of later gender dysphoria is increased if prenatal production and utilization (via receptor sensitivity) of androgens are grossly atypical relative to what is usually seen in individuals with the same assigned gender. Examples include 46,XY individuals with a history of normal male prenatal hormone milieu but inborn nonhormonal genital defects (as in cloacal bladder exstrophy or penile agenesis) and who have assigned to the female gender.

The likelihood of gender dysphoria is further enhanced by additional, prolonged, highly gender-atypical postnatal androgen exposure with somatic virilization as may occur in female-raised and noncastrated 46,XY individuals with 5-alpha reductase-2 deficiency or 17-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase-3 deficiency or in female-raised 46,XX individuals with classical congenital adrenal hyperplasia with prolonged periods of non-adherence to glucocorticoid replacement therapy. However, the prenatal androgen milieu is more closely related to gendered behavior than to gender identity. Many individuals with disorder of sex development and marked gender-atypical behavior do not develop gender dysphoria. There appears to be a high rate of gender dysphoria and patient-initiated gender change from assigned female to male than from assigned male to female in 46,XY individuals with a disorder of sex development.

Culture-Related Diagnostic Issues

Individuals with gender dysphoria have been reported across many countries and cultures. The equivalent of gender dysphoria has also been reported in individuals living in cultures with institutionalized gender categories other than male or female. It is unclear whether with these individuals the diagnostic criteria for gender dysphoria would be met.

Diagnostic Markers

Individuals with somatic disorder of sex development show some correlation of final gender outcome with the degree of prenatal androgen production and utilization. However, the correlation is not robust enough for the biological factor, where ascertainable to replace a detailed and comprehensive diagnostic interview evaluation for gender dysphoria.

Functional Consequences of Gender Dysphoria

Preoccupation with cross-gender wishes may develop at all ages after the first 2-3 years of childhood and often interfere with daily activities. In older children, failure to develops age-typical same-sex peer relationships and skills may lead to isolation from peer groups and to distress. Some children may refuse to attend school because of teasing and harassment [p. 458] or pressure to dress in attire associated with their assigned sex.

Also in adolescents and adults, preoccupation with cross-gender wishes often interferes with daily activities. Relationship difficulties, including, sexual relationship problems, are common, and functioning at school or at work may be impaired.

Gender dysphoria, along with atypical gender expression, is associated with high levels of stigmatization, discrimination, and victimization, leading to negative self-concept, increased rates of mental disorder comorbidity, school dropout, and economic marginalization, including unemployment, with attendant social and mental health risks, especially in individuals from resource-poor family backgrounds. In addition, these individuals' access to health services and mental health services may be impeded by structural barriers, such as institutional discomfort or inexperience in working with this patient population.

Differential Diagnosis

Nonconformity to gender roles. Gender dysphoria should be distinguished from simple nonconformity to stereotypical gender role behavior by the strong desire to be of another gender than the assigned one and by the extent and pervasiveness of gender-variant activities and interests.

The diagnosis is not meant to merely describe nonconformity to stereotypical gender role behavior (e.g., "tomboyism" in girls, "girly-boy" behavior in boys, occasional cross-dress in adult men). Given the increased openness of atypical gender expressions by individuals across the entire range of transgender spectrum, it is important that the clinical diagnosis be limited to those individuals whose distress and impairment meet the specified criteria.

Transvestic disorder. Transvestic disorder occurs in heterosexual (or bisexual) adolescent and adult males (rarely in females) for whom cross-dressing behavior generates sexual excitement and cause distress and/or impairment without drawing their primary gender into question. It is occasionally accompanied by gender dysphoria. An individual with transvestic disorder who also has clinically significant gender dysphoria can be given both diagnoses. In many cases of late-onset gender dysphoria in gynephilic natal males, transvestic behavior with sexual excitement is a precursor.

Body dysmorphic disorder. An individual with body dysmorphic disorder focuses on the alteration or removal of a specific body part because it is perceived as abnormally formed, not because it represents a repudiated assigned gender. When an individual's presentation meets criteria for both gender dysphoria and bod dysmorphic disorder, both diagnoses can be given. Individuals wishing to have a healthy limb amputated (termed by some body integrity identity disorder) because it makes them feel more "complete" usually do not wish to change gender, but rather desire to live as an amputee or as a disabled person.

Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. In schizophrenia, there may rarely be delusions of belonging to some other gender. In the absence of psychotic symptoms, insistence by an individual with gender dysphoria that he or she is of some other gender is not considered a delusion. Schizophrenia (or other psychotic disorders) and gender dysphoria may co-occur.

Other clinical presentations. Some individuals with an emasculinization desire who develop an alternative nonmale/nonfemale gender identity do have a presentation that meets criteria for gender dysphoria. However, some males see castration and/or penectomy for aesthetic reasons or to remove psychological effects of androgens without changing male identity, in these cases the criteria for gender dysphoria are not met.


Clinically referred children with gender dysphoria show elevated levels of emotional and behavioral problems—most commonly, anxiety, disruptive and impulse-control, and depressive [p. 459] disorders. In prepubertal children, increasing age is associated with having more behavioral or emotional problems, this is related to the increasing non-acceptance of gender-variant behavior by others. In older children, gender-variant behavior often leads to peer ostracism, which may lead to more behavioral problems.

The prevalence of mental health problems differs among cultures; these differences may also be related to differences in attitudes toward gender variance in children. However, also in some non-Western cultures, anxiety has been found to be relatively common in individuals with gender dysphoria, even in cultures with accepting attitudes toward gender-variant behavior.

Autism spectrum disorder is more prevalent in clinically referred children with gender dysphoria than in the general population. Clinically referred adolescents with gender dysphoria appear to have comorbid mental disorders, with anxiety and depressive disorder being the most common. As in children, autism spectrum disorder is more prevalent in clinically referred adolescents with gender dysphoria than in the general population. Clinically referred adults with gender dysphoria may have coexisting mental health problems, most commonly anxiety and depressive disorders.

Other Specified Gender Dysphoria 302.6 (F64.8)

[Not included here]

Unspecified Gender Dysphoria 302.6 (F64.9)

[Not included here]


In 2022 The American Psychiatric Association made a few changes to the manual's language:

  • The term “desired gender” is now “experienced gender." 
  • The term “cross-sex medical procedure” is now “gender-affirming medical procedure." 
  • The term “natal male”/“natal female” is now “individual assigned male/female at birth.”

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