Having a trans identity is not in and of itself a mental illness.
In the latest edition of the WHO International Compendium of Diseases (ICD-11), the diagnostic term Gender Incongruence, replaces F.64 Transsexualism (ICD-10) and has been moved out of the chapter on Mental and Behavioural Disorders5. This has been welcomed by those campaigning for the de-pathologisation and de-stigmatisation of gender diversity.
However, trans people do experience higher rates of mental health complaints including self-harm (73% cutting), suicidality (as high as 70-80%), anxiety (38%) and depression (55%).6 This is linked to social stressors and experiences of transphobia and is similarly the case for LGB individuals when compared to the heterosexual non-trans population, albeit to a lesser extent.
There is good evidence to demonstrate that gender affirmation including hormone treatments and surgeries improves the overall wellbeing of individuals, including reductions in anxiety, depression, suicidality and substance misuse1. Delayed eligibility for medical interventions is also associated with this kind of psychiatric co-morbidity7.
Psychosis has no causal link with gender incongruence. Autistic spectrum traits appear to occur more commonly in trans people, and research into this link is ongoing8. It is important therefore to be mindful of the way in which we communicate and to consider the need for holistic support.
‘Deadnaming’ is when a person who has changed their name to reflect their gender is referred to by their previous name. It can cause profound psychological distress and alienation.