Why isn’t Gender Dysphoria Treated Like Anorexia?
As I feel my flat chest the depression deepens. I ask myself, “can’t this feeling just go away? Can’t I get rid of it through therapy?” Then the reasoning creeps in, “isn’t this just like someone who is anorexic or bulimic?”
I have actually heard this argument before when trying to explain why I need to explore some amount of gender transition. “If therapists can help heal someone who has anorexia,” the question goes, “can’t they heal someone who has gender dysphoria?”
This question began to nag at me so I did a little research. An eating disorder website called Monte Nido addressed this question:
How does this make sense? Let’s break it down:
- body dysmorphia (e.g., anorexia) — perception of the body is distorted
- gender dysphoria — perception of the body is not distorted
Someone with gender dysphoria recognizes full well what their body looks like. A transgender woman prior to transition sees a physical man in the mirror. This is reality. Her mind tells her she is a woman, that she has a man’s body, but that her body should be a woman’s body.
Someone with anorexia looks in the mirror and, rather than seeing an emaciated body, they see a healthy body. This is not reality.
Put into the context of gender, it would be like a transgender woman who has fully transitioned, has female genitalia and a nice womanly figure, who still sees a man’s body. It can be a subtle difference, but the difference is there and it is important.
Edited 4/14/2021 based on clarification and the personal experience of a reader in the comments. Thank you Norman Vitaly Julian!
: Monte Nido, Treating Eating Disorders. (February 11 2021). Dysphoria vs. Dysmorphia: Mental Health Discussions in Transgender Anorexia Nervosa Treatment. https://www.montenido.com/transgender-anorexia-dysphoria-vs-dysmorphia/