Transitional surgeries, better known as gender affirmation surgeries, are on the rise and making life much more manageable for transgender and gender diverse individuals.
However, what most people don’t realize — and aren’t told — is that the surgeries themselves don’t fix the mental health issues that usually accompany a life of hiding, misconception, and bigotry.
In this article we’re going to discuss gender affirmation surgery and the concept of mental health behind it.
What Is Gender Affirmation Surgery?
Gender affirming surgery is a surgery that changes the sexual characteristics of an individual to better reflect their overall gender identity.
For many transgender and gender diverse youths, these types of surgery are necessary for their mental health and well being. Primarily, these surgeries provide relief from gender dysphoria.
Gender dysphoria is the clinical term the extreme distress that individuals experience when their gender identity does not match the sex they were born with.
In addition to increasing the safety and comfort of transgender and gender diverse individuals, gender affirmation surgery also lessens or completely eliminate the need for hormone therapies.
There are a number of gender affirming surgeries available today, including top surgery and bottom surgery — which generally refers to the upper body and lower body. Individuals may choose to get one or more of the surgeries, depending on their situation and their needs.
Gender Affirmation Surgery and Mental Health
The link between gender affirming surgeries and mental health is a double edged sword.
Research has shown that of all the transgender and gender diverse people, 9.3% visited their doctor with a mood disorder, 7.4% visited their doctor with anxiety, and 29% were taking prescribed antidepressants.
It is believed that these mood disorders and anxieties are directly related to the feelings of gender dysphoria. That means that at least half the transgender and gender diversepeople out there have a need for gender affirming surgery while the other half is content with their gender identity role.
According to the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, gender affirming surgeries are often the last step taken inthe treatment process for gender dysphoria.
Additionally, according to recent research published by The American Journal of Psychiatry, individuals suffering from gender dysphoria who underwent gender affirming surgery saw significant improvements in their mental health over time.
However, shortly after, the editors of the journal had to reprint a correction. That correction stated: “the results [of the gender affirming surgeries] demonstrated no advantage of surgery in relation to subsequent mood or anxiety disorder-related health care.”
As it turns out, the benefits of the surgeries make up an incredibly small number compared to those with a darker outcome. However, it’s not the surgeries that are causing the issues. The mental health issues that existed prior to the surgeries are the issue.
For example, the study mentioned earlier noted that transgender and gender diverse individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria were more like to have a mood or anxiety disorder, be prescribed antidepressants and antianxiety medications, andare more likely to attempt suicide.
Although these mental disorders are clearly linked to gender dysphoria, it’s important to remember that the gender affirming surgeries only change the physical experience — it does not fully address the mental experience.
Additionally, these same studies have found that individuals who have undergone these transitional surgeries were also less likely to seek out further mental health treatment for their depression and anxiety disorders.
If you or someone you know is transitioning and also has a history of mental health issues, it’s important that action is taken to follow up with you or their mental health.
That’s what we’re here for. Reach out to us today to learn more about our accessible psychiatric services or to book an appointment