Heterosexual people face lot of mental health issues as it is, but when it comes to transgender men, one can only imagine the mental or psychological issues one faces along with the stigma of being a transgender man. Transgender men struggle with some mental health conditions which are more specific to them and the treatment consists of hormone therapy, which can reduce the symptoms of mental health problems in transgender men.
Family members and friends of transgender men can and should provide support to them during their transition process of not only their physical aspect, but also their mental health.
Keep on reading to know more about mental health in transgender men, their unique challenges and what you can do to help and support them.
Mental Health in Transgender Men
Mental health is extremely important to live a good quality of life and transgender men struggle with it even more. For this reason, it is important to create gender-affirming surroundings for betterment and support of mental health of a transgender man.
A study shown in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine reveals that people who identify with a different gender than which they were born with seem to have an increased frequency of mental health symptoms.(1) This study showed that gender minority people are four times more at increased risk of suffering from a minimum of one mental health issue, when compared to their cisgender peers.(7) Some of the potential mental health diseases that can increasingly affect transgender men are: anxiety; depression; self-harm; eating disorders; suicidal tendencies or thoughts.
Another study in BMC Public Health has revealed that transgender people are more susceptible to suffer from increased signs of loneliness and decreased life satisfaction.(2) These feelings can be attributed to a number of causes such as:
Transgender Men Face Unique Challenges
There are many stressors, which contribute to increase in the mental health problems for transgender people or transgender men. Transgender people, in general face increased stressors all through their lives when compared to cisgender peers when it comes to gender identity and sexual orientation.(7) Some of these stressors are:
- Rejection or lack of acceptance by their loved ones.
- Rejection from their friends and family members.
- Low self-esteem.
- Body image problems.
- Poor coping skills.
- Avoidant behaviors.
- Reduced sexual satisfaction.
All these cumulative stressors faced by transgender men throughout their life greatly impact their mental health and causes low self esteem along with a myriad of other problems.
Transgender Men Experience More Loneliness(3)
The loneliness felt by transgender men also greatly contributes to the mental health issues faced by them. A study has shown social loneliness is an important factor that is responsible for poor mental health in transgender men.
Transgender men more so specifically suffer from romantic loneliness which further compounds their mental health problems. Research has shown that a decreased level of mental health is linked with increased levels of loneliness. Transgender people not only suffer from the stigma of the society but also the loneliness which comes attached with it resulting in poor mental health.
What the society expects, especially from a man, plays an important role in the well being of transgender men. Social attitudes towards gender identity differs from person to person and place to place. This is the reason why transgender men particularly suffer discrimination all their lives. Some of the problems faced by transgender men are: Social stigma, personal prejudices and possible violence. All these factors contribute greatly toward the negative aspects of the mental health of transgender people.
Transgender Men Find It Difficult To Seek Treatment or Help
The huge stigma surrounding the gender minority identities also prevents transgender men from seeking professional help and getting better. This decreased access to professional health and support further increases the feeling of desperation, hopelessness, suffocation and feeling trapped within their own mind and thoughts. If these problems are not treated in transgender men, then it can cause worsening of mental health and in serious cases it can result in severe depression and even suicide.
What You Can Do for Prevention of Suicide in Transgender Men
If you are aware of someone who is going through problems, such as gender identity issues, mental issues, thoughts of hurting self or another person then ask them frankly: If they are considering suicide? And listen patiently and without any judgment to what they have to say. If the thoughts of suicide are deeply embedded in the said person, then call local emergency number or 911 or text TALK to 741741 to talk with a professionally trained crisis counselor. Stay with the said person till help arrives. Always remove any potential weapons, medications or any objects that can be potentially harmful.
Coping With the Increased Severity of Mental Health Problems in Transgender Men
There is no doubt that the severity of mental health issues is more in transgender men and it effects them differently too; especially if the individual is not able to seek gender-affirming treatments. These treatments help in relieving the symptoms of mental health issues and make the person feel complete and comfortable with who they are. Transgender men are more severely affected with mental health problems than cisgender men because of the stigma attached and because this stigma prevents them from reaching out to a proper support system.
Accepting a person’s gender identity be it by a family member or a friend or the society, is a giant step towards improving the mental health of transgender men.
Mental Health, Hormones & Drugs(4)
Gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) is a treatment where the patient with gender dysphoria is given hormones in safe doses to help them to transition easily to their preferred gender identity or the one which they relate to or identify with. Research has shown that gender-affirming hormone therapy has overall positive psychological effect on adolescents as well as adults.
Gender-affirming hormone therapy helps in alleviating the symptoms of mental health problems suffered from transgender men, such as depression, anxiety and reduced markers of social stress along with improvement in self-esteem and quality of life. Hormone therapy is usually an important part of reducing gender dysphoria and can be the link to treating underlying mental health diseases suffered by transgender men.
Though GAHT benefits transgender people and is sought by many to help affirm their gender identity, however, not all transgender individuals will choose or want this treatment.
How to Support Transgender Men/People During Their Transition
If you are a family member or a friend of a transgender man, then it is difficult for them to accept that their loved ones is suffering from such crisis, but more so is difficult for the actual person who is going through gender transition. It is difficult for a cisgender person to fully comprehend and understand the difficulty or the process a transgender person faces during such times. It is crucial that family members and friends of a transgender man try to be supportive and seek treatment for them. It is also important to create a gender-affirming atmosphere in a social or familial setting to alleviate the gender dysphoria. This also makes it easy to facilitate treatment for the psychological problems suffered by transgender men.
Showing support to transgender people consists of the following:
- It is important to educate oneself about transgender problems and its solutions.
- It is highly advisable to always keep the communication lines open.
- Always use the person’s preferred name and pronouns as this is a huge way of showing support towards the transgender person.
- Try to advocate for the rights of transgender people.
- Always listen to them without showing any judgment.
- Do not make any assumptions about someone’s gender roles, sexual preferences or any desire for treatment.
It takes time and patience to adjust to an individual’s identity as they begin the transitioning process and this change can result in lot of different judgments, reactions and confusion.
Support groups and mental health professionals can offer resources and tools to not just transgender man, but also to the people who are close to them to understand what their loved one is going through.
Treatment for Mental Health Problems in Transgender Men(5)
The mental health of a transgender person and the mental illness suffered by them are separate from the fact that they are transgender, says the National LGBT Health Education Center.
Gender dysphoria is the stressed psychological feeling a person experiences when one is not able to identify with the gender identity which they were born with and it is a mental health issue.(6) There are plenty of transgender people who are struggling with gender dysphoria and need treatment for it, but being a transgender or having transgender identity is not the same thing and is not a type of psychopathy.
For many transgenders, treatment done through gender-affirming health practices where they affirm their gender identity helps in resolving their feelings of gender dysphoria. Whereas, some transgender people will need surgery and hormone therapy to completely resolve their gender dysphoria and some may not need any type of treatment at all.
Treating gender dysphoria helps in reducing the signs of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
Proper treatment of gender dysphoria helps in decreasing the stressors on a transgender person by helping them to focus on their underlying problems. Other than gender-affirming treatments, mental health professionals can also diagnose and treat other underlying mental health problems, such as eating disorders, anxiety or depression.
Treatment for mental health issues differs from person to person and can consist of a combination of different modes of psychotherapy and prescription medications. All these treatments should be integrated with gender-affirming therapies and environments which support beneficial outcomes in transgender people.
Without a doubt transgender men are more vulnerable to unique mental health problems and finding solution is a delicate process that needs patience and support. Seeking treatments, such as hormone therapy and medications helps in reducing the stressful symptoms; however, not every man who is transgender will opt for these treatments.
Transgender men just like any other human need support and counseling during this difficult time of transitioning through their gender identity and should not hesitate to seek health care as and when needed.