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Individuals who identify as transgender are at a significantly higher risk for depression compared to the rest of the population. Roughly 6.7 percent of the general U.S. population suffers from depression, while nearly half of transgender individuals experience depression and other mental health issues. In addition, approximately 41 percent of trans men and women are estimated to have attempted suicide. Transgender depression is a serious issue and is common to the transgender experience—so what exactly is it, and how can it be treated?

What is transgender depression?

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a common, but serious, mental illness that negatively affects a person’s mood and mental state. Depression causes feelings of sadness and apathy, leading to a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities. If left untreated, depression can lead to physical symptoms and make it difficult for an individual to function at work, home, or school. 

Rates of depression are significantly higher among individuals who identify as transgender — specifically trans teens. According to a 2016 study, transgender depression often arises from the discrimination, stigma, abuse, and lack of acceptance faced by transgender individuals. Transgender individuals experience higher levels of stress due to perceived discrimination and lack of a social support system.

Transgender individuals with untreated depression face a four-fold increased risk of depression. More than half of transgender teens (54.4 percent) have an elevated risk of anxiety, while a significant portion have engaged more often in self-harming activities. Gender dysmorphia, a condition where a person experiences distress and anxiety due to a mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity, further contributes to mental health issues.

Since nearly half of transgender individuals are affected by mental health problems, it’s necessary to provide support. Familial support and the creation of a socially supportive environment assists in the affirmation of gender identity and helps reduce rates of depression.

How can it be treated? 

Transgender teens and their parents should look into therapy for transgender depression treatment. Therapy encourages proper coping strategies to deal with depression and suicidal thoughts. Gender-affirming transgender depression treatment encourages the development of interpersonal skills and increases self-esteem.

It’s important that transgender individuals are able to feel comfortable discussing their transition with a therapist, so make sure to find a therapist that works for you. Try searching for a therapist with experience in transgender youth. Support groups are also great ways to share thoughts and struggles. If you’re considering therapy, look into health information exchange services to transfer medical records.

Studies have shown reduced rates of depression and suicidal behavior among LGBTQ youth who are able to use their preferred name at school, home, work, and with friends. Similarly, teens who disclose their status as transgender show reduced signs of stress and depression. Teens who are able to dress the way they want and pursue hormonal treatment or surgery in order to bring their body into alignment with their identity experience further emotional and mental relief.

If your teen or someone you know is transgender, you should express social support in order to promote a successful transition as well as reduce depression. Social support has a direct effect on the levels of stress experienced by transgender individuals.

In order to reduce rates of depression and suicide among transgender individuals, social support and acceptance is essential. Transgender depression, along with trans mental health issues, are major issues due to widespread discrimination and prejudice against trans men and women. If you or someone you know is experiencing gender-related depression, consider looking into treatment directed specifically toward transgender depression.