Published on Fri Dec 30 2016

Mental health and gender dysphoria: A review of the literature.

Cecilia Dhejne, Roy Van Vlerken, Gunter Heylens, Jon Arcelus

Research has provided conflicting psychiatric outcomes following gender-confirming medical interventions. Main Axis I psychiatric disorders were found to be depression and anxiety disorder. Other major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, were rare and were no more prevalent than in the general population.

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Abstract

Studies investigating the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among trans individuals have identified elevated rates of psychopathology. Research has also provided conflicting psychiatric outcomes following gender-confirming medical interventions. This review identifies 38 cross-sectional and longitudinal studies describing prevalence rates of psychiatric disorders and psychiatric outcomes, pre- and post-gender-confirming medical interventions, for people with gender dysphoria. It indicates that, although the levels of psychopathology and psychiatric disorders in trans people attending services at the time of assessment are higher than in the cis population, they do improve following gender-confirming medical intervention, in many cases reaching normative values. The main Axis I psychiatric disorders were found to be depression and anxiety disorder. Other major psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, were rare and were no more prevalent than in the general population. There was conflicting evidence regarding gender differences: some studies found higher psychopathology in trans women, while others found no differences between gender groups. Although many studies were methodologically weak, and included people at different stages of transition within the same cohort of patients, overall this review indicates that trans people attending transgender health-care services appear to have a higher risk of psychiatric morbidity (that improves following treatment), and thus confirms the vulnerability of this population.