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Mental health

According to transgender advocate Rebecca A. Allison, trans people are "particularly prone" to depression and anxiety: "In addition to loss of family and friends, they face job stress and the risk of unemployment. Trans people who have not transitioned and remain in their birth gender are very prone to depression and anxiety. Suicide is a risk, both prior to transition and afterward. One of the most important aspects of the transgender therapy relationship is management of depression and/or anxiety." Depression is significantly correlated with experienced discrimination. In a study of San Francisco trans women, 62% reported depression. In a 2003 study of 1093 trans men and trans women, there was a prevalence of 44.1% for clinical depression and 33.2% for anxiety.

Suicide attempts are common in transgender people. In some transgender populations the majority have attempted suicide at least once. 41% of the respondents of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported having attempted suicide. This statistic was even higher for certain demographics – for example, 56% of American Indian and Alaskan Native transgender respondents had attempted suicide. In contrast, 1.6% of the American population has attempted suicide. In the sample all minority ethnic groups (Asian, Latino, black, American Indian and mixed race) had higher prevalence of suicide attempts than white people. Number of suicide attempts was also correlated with life challenges - 64% of those surveyed who had been sexually assaulted had attempted suicide. 76% who had been assaulted by teachers or other school staff had made an attempt.

In 2012 the Scottish Transgender Alliance conducted the Trans Mental Health Study. 74% of the respondents who had transitioned reported improved mental health after transitioning. 53% had self-harmed at some point, and 11% currently self-harmed. 55% had been diagnosed with or had a current diagnosis of depression. An additional 33% believed that they currently had depression, or had done in the past, but had not been diagnosed. 5% had a current or past eating disorder diagnosis. 19% believed that they had suffered from an eating disorder or currently had one, but had not been diagnosed. 84% of the sample had experienced suicide ideation and 48% had made a suicide attempt. 3% had attempted suicide more than 10 times. 63% of respondents who transitioned thought about and attempted suicide less after transitioning. Other studies have found similar results.

Trans women appear to be at greater risk than trans men and the general population of dying of suicide. However, trans men are more likely to attempt suicide than trans women.

Personality disorders are common in transgender people.

Gender identity disorder is currently classed as a psychiatric condition by the DSM IV-TR. The upcoming DSM-5 removes GID and replaces it with 'gender dysphoria', which is not classified by some authorities as a mental illness. Until the 1970s, psychotherapy was the primary treatment for GID. However, today the treatment protocol involves biomedical interventions, with psychotherapy on its own being unusual. There has been controversy about the inclusion of transsexuality in the DSM, one claim being that Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood was introduced to the DSM-III in 1980 as a 'backdoor-maneuver' to replace homosexuality, which was removed from the DSM-II in 1973.


Transgender individuals frequently take hormones to achieve feminizing or masculinizing effects. Side effects of hormone use include increased risk of blood clottinghigh or low blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, water retention, dehydration, electrolyte disturbances, liver damage, increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Use of unprescribed hormones is common, but little is known about the associated risks. One potential hazard is HIV transmission from needle sharing. Cross-sex hormones may reduce fertility.

Injectable silicone

Some trans women use injectable silicone, sometimes administered by lay persons, to achieve their desired physique. This is most frequently injected into the hip and buttocks. It is associated with considerable medical complications, including morbidity. Such silicone may migrate, causing disfigurement years later. Non-medical grade silicone may contain contaminants, and may be injected using a shared needle. In New York City silicone injection occurs frequently enough to be called 'epidemic', with a NYC survey of trans women finding that 18% were receiving silicone injections from 'black market' providers.

Sexually transmitted infections

Trans people (especially trans women – trans men have actually been found to have a lower rate of HIV than the general US population) are frequently forced into sex work to make a living, and are subsequently at increased risk for STIs including HIV. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 2.64% of American transgender people are HIV positive, and transgender sex workers are over 37 times more likely than members of the general American population to be HIV positive. HIV is also more common in trans people of color. For example, in a study by the National Institute of Health more than 56% of African-American trans women were HIV-positive compared to 27% of trans women in general. This has been connected to how trans people of color are more likely to be sex workers.

A 2012 meta analysis of studies assessing rates of HIV infection among transgender women in 15 countries found that trans women are 49 times more likely to have HIV than the general population. HIV positive trans persons are likely to be unaware of their status. In one study, 73% of HIV-positive trans women were unaware of their status.

Latin American trans women have a HIV prevalence of 35%, but most Latin American countries do not recognize transgender people as a population. Therefore, there are no laws catering to their health needs.

Transgender people have higher levels of interaction with the police than the general population. 7% of transgender Americans have been held in prison cell simply due to their gender identity/expression. This rate is 41% for transgender African-Americans. 16% of respondents had been sexually assaulted in prison, a risk factor for HIV. 20% of trans women are sexually assaulted in prison, compared to 6% of trans men. Trans women of color are more likely to be assaulted whilst in prison. 38% of black trans women report having been sexually assaulted in prison compared to 12% of white trans women.

In a San Francisco study, 68% of trans women and 55% of trans men reported having been raped, a risk factor for HIV.

Substance abuse

Trans people are more likely than the general population to use substances. For example, studies have shown that trans men are 50% more likely, and trans women 200% more likely to smoke cigarettes than other populations. It has been suggested that tobacco use is high among transgender people because many use it to maintain weight loss. In one study of transgender people, the majority had a history of non-injection drug use with the rates being 90% for marijuana, 66% for cocaine, 24% for heroin, and 48% for crack. It has been suggested that transgender people who are more accepted by their families are less likely to develop substance abuse issues.

In the Trans Mental Health Study 2012, 24% of participants had used drugs within the past year. The most commonly used drug was cannabis. 19% currently smoked. A study published in 2013 found that among a sample of transgender adults, 26.5% had abused prescription drugs, most commonly analgesics.



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