Gender Dysphoria and Dual Diagnosis
Complex issues such as substance abuse and mental health rarely occur alone.
In fact, there is a great deal of research showing people with mental health issues of all types are more likely to abuse substances.
This is not a judgment or reflection on the character of these people.
Instead, it is a testament to the power of mental health.
People dealing with gender dysphoria are more vulnerable to substance abuse for many factors.
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What is Gender Dysphoria?
Gender dysphoria is a term to describe the sense of unease, anxiety, and depression people can feel when it comes to gender identity.
Some people feel that their biological sex (male or female) does not align with their personal gender identity.
For some, this causes a general sense of unease that is manageable with their healthy coping tools.
For others, the problem is more severe.
Gender dysphoria can contribute to many serious issues.
These include anxiety attacks, chronic depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions.
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Why Gender Dysphoria is Misunderstood
One of the reasons gender dysphoria is often misunderstood is because of the connection between gender and sex. For a long time, we as a culture have used the terms gender and sex to mean essentially the same thing. Whether we ask for someone’s gender or their sex, we are looking for one of two answers: male or female. Western culture is now beginning to understand something that has a part of some cultures for generations. This clash of cultures can result in many misunderstandings, especially between generations.
Gender vs. Sex: What’s the Difference?
Sex refers to the biological attributes of humans and animals. It refers to secondary sex characteristics, genetic makeup, and hormone levels. They are all biological attributes and are often characterized as simply male or female. But this simplistic approach does not represent the full scope of how these attributes are expressed. Some people are born with ‘male’ oriented hormone levels and function, but ‘female’ oriented gene expression. Gender, on the other hand, has little if anything to do with biology. Instead, gender focuses on the social and cultural constructs associated with the biological sex of a person. Again, these have traditionally been set as only male or female. Several cultures have developed outside of the Western gender binary. They include Native American tribes, Machi (Mapuche Shamans) of Chile, Indian Hindus, and people in Thailand to name just a few.
How Gender Dysphoria Contributes to Dual Diagnosis
Gender dysphoria itself does not encourage substance abuse or develop serious mental health issues. Having said that, cultural reactions and attitudes toward gender dysphoria can be a catalyst for bigger issues. Gender dysphoria is a new term within the medical community. The body of research surrounding gender dysphoria and its relationship with health continues to grow. What is clear is that people living with gender dysphoria are at a disadvantage. They are more likely to struggle with depression, anxiety, and various forms of substance abuse. The link with substance abuse is often the result of people self-medicating.
How Self Medicating Hurts
In a world where people can research almost anything, self-medicating has become something of a national pastime. People can find at-home treatment options for anything. But because so much information is available, that does not mean it is always well presented or interpreted. Self-medicating also goes beyond home remedies or holistic options. In many cases, people turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of self-medication. It may seem harmless at first since they are simply doing what they need to in order to survive. But self-medication can turn into abuse or addiction.
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From Self Medicating to Self-Harm
Self-medicating often starts out innocently enough. Someone has a drink to calm their nerves before facing a family who doesn’t understand their gender dysphoria. Perhaps they begin using recreational drugs to understand their feelings. Maybe they even use medications in an attempt to address the gender dysphoria. While this might sound harmless, it is behavior that can soon become a habit. That habit, in turn, can develop into abuse that spirals out of control. Addiction does not happen overnight. Instead, it creeps up on you, often associated with feeling better. But that sensation of feeling better is short-lived and not based on anything real. Since it is achieved by self-medicating, it is not sustainable. Over time, it requires more of the substance in order to achieve that same good feeling.
Treatment for Dual Diagnosis
Facing a dual diagnosis that includes gender dysphoria can be overwhelming at first. Since gender dysphoria is not often discussed openly, many people do not understand it. That includes people who may be living with it. As a result, some may feel no treatment option would be able to address the issue in an accepting and non-judgemental way. This is not the case. At Resurgence Behavioral Health, for example, we address the specific challenges associated with all forms of gender dysphoria. Our team works with members of the LGBTQ+ community and health professionals. This focus helps us develop tailored treatment plans that address harmful issues such as self-harm and addiction while accepting and honoring a person’s sexual or gender identity.
This approach to dual diagnosis and treatment is often seen as a new or cutting edge approach. As a result, it can bring up questions about insurance coverage. The insurance Verification team at Resurgence Behavioral Health can help address this initial concern right away. We work with insurance carriers all over the country and have a fluent understanding of many different plans and coverage details. Not only can the Resurgence Behavioral Health team help determine if services are covered, but we can also help with the paperwork. We help clients every day to file benefit claims and identify the best treatments within their coverage plans.
The Power of Asking For Help
It is never easy to ask for help. This is especially true when someone fears judgment based on their gender identity. At the same time, navigating your own gender dysmorphia is not always something a person can do on their own. The complex issues surrounding gender dysmorphia make it hard to unravel when you are the one it affects. This is why it is vital to work with mental health professionals dedicated to understanding new concepts and approaches. Taking that first step can be frightening, but it is also powerful.
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We Meet You Where You Are
Dealing with gender dysphoria can sometimes make people feel as if they are in limbo.
They postpone getting help for other issues since they want to wait until they “know what’s going on”.
But the truth is that you can ask for help no matter where you are in your journey.
At Resurgence Behavioral Health we work to meet people where they are, regardless of their mental health issues or questions.
In many cases, the issues are intertwined anyway, so it is impossible to effectively treat one without addressing the other.
Our diverse and progressive team makes it a point to understand the latest research on issues such as gender dysphoria.
That means we can offer fully supportive help and treatment plans without passing judgment or asking people to hide their truth.
Get in touch today to discuss what is going on, hear what we can offer, and see what a healthy future can be like.