A study shows that gender-affirming hormone treatment is valuable for transgender and nonbinary adolescents. In this Medical News Today article, Mindpath Health’s Zishan Khan, MD, discusses how such therapy helps individuals align their physical characteristics with their gender identity, helping them avoid gender dysphoria, and decrease anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Two years after starting gender-affirming hormone treatments, transgender and nonbinary youth experienced a sustained reduction in depression and anxiety and achieved a significantly improved alignment between their gender and physical characteristics, reports a large new study.
The study proves that gender-affirming hormone treatment is valuable for transgender and nonbinary adolescents—a group at an elevated risk of suicidality, depression, and anxiety.
Young people at risk
According to a 2022 study by the Trevor Project, about three-quarters of transgender and nonbinary youth experienced symptoms of anxiety in the previous year compared to cisgender youth. Over half experienced depression.
The same study found roughly half of the transgender and nonbinary youth had considered suicide, and that one in five had attempted suicide.
The new study “further validates the struggles so many trans youth face on a daily basis, which partially revolves around fitting in, feeling comfortable in their own skin, and being happy in their everyday life,” said Dr. Zishan Khan, a psychiatrist with Mindpath Health.
“Such studies serve to contradict the misguided thoughts and perceptions many people have regarding such treatment,” Dr. Khan added.
Gender dysphoria and euphoria
When a person’s body and appearance conflict with their gender identity, they may experience “gender dysphoria.”
“It is well-documented that such dysphoria is associated with higher rates of unwanted psychological outcomes such as suicide, depression, anxiety, substance use, emotional dysregulation, and others,” said Dr. Megan Gandy of West Virginia University’s School of Social Work.
Bringing a person’s physical characteristics in line with their gender identity is referred to as “gender congruence.”
The new study found that achieving gender congruence was associated with reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms.
Dr. Luke Allen, psychologist, says that the way we see ourselves — and the way others perceive us — has a strong influence on “worry, anxiety, and our willingness to put ourselves out there, to make friends, and pursue other important relationships and activities.”
Dysphoria can be especially challenging for young transgender and nonbinary teens facing the hormonal changes that come with puberty.
A youth confronted with body hair, voice changes, breast development, and so on may turn to hormone suppression to prevent permanent, unwanted changes to their body. Gender-affirming hormones, on the other hand, take a more positive approach by changing body characteristics to match a person’s gender identity.
How bans on hormone therapy affect youth
Dr. Gandy called the new research a “rigorous longitudinal study,” saying, “this is a reliable source of scientific information that adds to the growing body of literature that is informing this area of practice.”
“There is so much misinformation out there, and many people simply don’t realize that this is not just a phase these children are going through,” said Dr. Khan.
Dr. Khan also noted that “gender-affirming hormone therapy is not necessarily a dangerous and extreme measure that people receive and end up regretting or having long lasting negative effects in their lives.”
Wherever bans on gender-affirming hormone treatments are in place, research such as this study will be impossible, leaving their burden on transgender nonbinary youth unknown, Dr. Gandy says. She also fears that bans threaten to hinder the progress of scientific research, affecting everyone.