Dissociative symptoms in individuals with gender dysphoria: is the elevated prevalence real?

Psychiatry Res. 2015 Mar 30;226(1):173-80. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2014.12.045. Epub 2015 Jan 23.


This study evaluated dissociative symptomatology, childhood trauma and body uneasiness in 118 individuals with gender dysphoria, also evaluating dissociative symptoms in follow-up assessments after sex reassignment procedures were performed. We used both clinical interviews (Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule) and self-reported scales (Dissociative Experiences Scale). A dissociative disorder of any kind seemed to be greatly prevalent (29.6%). Moreover, individuals with gender dysphoria had a high prevalence of lifetime major depressive episode (45.8%), suicide attempts (21.2%) and childhood trauma (45.8%), and all these conditions were more frequent in patients who fulfilled diagnostic criteria for any kind of dissociative disorder. Finally, when treated, patients reported lower dissociative symptoms. Results confirmed previous research about distress in gender dysphoria and improved mental health due to sex reassignment procedures. However, it resulted to be difficult to ascertain dissociation in the context of gender dysphoria, because of the similarities between the two conditions and the possible limited application of clinical instruments which do not provide an adequate differential diagnosis. Therefore, because the body uneasiness is common to dissociative experiences and gender dysphoria, the question is whether dissociation is to be seen not as an expression of pathological dissociative experiences but as a genuine feature of gender dysphoria.

Keywords: Body uneasiness; Childhood trauma; Dissociative symptoms; Gender dysphoria; Gender reaffirming treatment; Transsexualism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Dissociative Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Dissociative Disorders / etiology
  • Dissociative Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Transsexualism / epidemiology*
  • Transsexualism / etiology
  • Transsexualism / therapy*