Transvestic Disorder

What is Transvestic disorder?

Transvestic disorder consists of an individual dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex whether they be male or female.

There are a few different reasons a person decides to be a transvestite. Some of these reasons include sexual satisfaction, personal preferences, fantasies, or urges. In some cases, the urge to dress in clothing of the opposite sex can cause problems for the individual or others which is one of the hallmark symptoms of transvestic disorder.

Practicing the actions of being a transvestite does not necessarily mean the person has a transvestic disorder unless their actions cause problems in their life or harm to the patient and others in regards to being a transvestite.

Overview of transvestic disorder

It’s a condition in which an individual cross-dresses in the opposite sex’s clothing while also experiencing distress and sexual arousal. Cross-dressing has been a fairly common occurrence and isn’t classified as a sexual disorder unless the individual who is participating in the activity is experiencing some type of problem as a result of their preferences. The preferences can come from urges limited to a desire to wear women’s clothing because of its aesthetic, in conjunction with it becoming a sexual stimulant.

Although many assume people who dress in the clothing of the opposite sex are homosexual, this is not true; in fact, there are many individuals who dress in the opposite sex’s clothing who are heterosexual, many of whom are well-known figures. In terms of having a transvestic disorder, the condition may also carry the designation of a paraphilic disorder.

Some transvestites are heterosexual and simply prefer to wear alternative-style clothing. Regardless of sexual preference, the individual experiences some degree of sexual excitement as a result of the transvestic disorder, which can range from being mildly disruptive to their lives to an extreme hindrance that can cause problems with personal and professional relationships.

Symptoms of transvestic disorder

The symptoms of transvestic disorder tend to appear in adolescence in most cases. This is not the case 100% of the time, but as noted in the majority of cases.

In cases of transvestic disorder, the patient must not only dress in the clothes of the opposite sex, they must also experience some type of sexual arousal as a result of wearing at least one article of clothing normally worn by a member of the opposite sex.

Not only must the individual express sexual arousal as a result of wearing the clothing, they must also express extreme distress as a result of their activities. The distress may come from their personal, social interaction, family relationships, or their professional life. In order to carry the designation of transvestic disorder, the patient must experience these feelings when they cross-dress for at least 6 months.

The individuals who dress in the clothing of the opposite sex who experience transvestic disorder may dress in as little as one article of clothing, or they may opt to dress completely in the clothing of the opposite sex. Some of these individuals embrace the disorder very much and dress completely in the clothing as opposed to wearing only one item.

When it comes to wearing the clothing, the individual will normally experience arousal, which leads to masturbation in the younger individuals, and for the more mature cross-dresser, it will lead to a session of sexual activity or delayed gratification which some way assists in a sexual act.

It is important to note that a transvestic disorder isn’t a fetish in that either sex can have a transvestic disorder, and a fetish refers to wearing women’s clothing specifically.

A transvestic disorder may also be accompanied with a variety of other symptoms such as voyeurism, masochism, public exposure of genitals, pornography, and frequent masturbation. These symptoms can become overwhelming or severely disrupting to the person. In some cases, these symptoms can cause legal issues if the person is caught by members of the public.

If the person is exposing themselves in public, it is important that they seek immediate help because their behavior can not only distress them but others who witness their actions. If the person is disturbed enough, they may be required to have an inpatient stay at a medical facility until they can get their symptoms under control to help prevent further similar actions in the future.

Causes of transvestic disorder

There are many scenarios which may contribute to an individual experiencing transvestic disorder. Some of the scenarios may include experiences from their early years, which may have had a sexual connotation or could be as a result of fantasies the person harbors over the course of years. It can also stem from the atmosphere in which a child is raised and the variances from the normal household.

There is no specific formula which creates an atmosphere conducive to a person developing a transvestic disorder. Once the person begins to have feelings they may begin acting on them slowly and can build into an actual disorder, defined as a period of both having sexual feelings accompanied with distress as well as a period of at least six months experiencing their feelings. There may even not be an apparent cause. Some of the individuals come from average families and do not experience any form of trauma growing up.

It may be a psychological anomaly which appears organically in the individual. Although a person may develop the disorder early on in their lives, they may not really express their feelings to anyone other than themselves until later in life. Each case is different and has its own individual causes, which requires a personalized course of treatment in order for the person to effectively deal with their feelings and emotions.

Those who do not acknowledge their issue may fall into legal trouble or can suffer professional and personal repercussions as a result. In order to find the root of the cause, and then treat the issue correctly, the person experiencing the disorder should seek treatment from a professional who specializes in that type of treatment. Some individuals who develop transvestic disorder as a result of trauma are far more likely to have an extended course of treatment, which may consist of a combination of medication and specialized therapy.

Treatment of transvestic disorder

A person who participates in the act of cross-dressing or being a transvestite does not require treatment for their preferences; however, a person diagnosed with a transvestic disorder, which results in prolonged distress, requires treatment in order to help the person handle their feelings and emotions. Distress from the condition and feelings such as depression, anger, and shame are a result of not just the act of being a transvestite, but normally is the result of some underlying condition.

Most professional therapists and mental health professionals will assess the individual thoroughly before administering any type of medication or method of therapy. Some individuals may respond to therapy only, while others may require a medication to help them deal with underlying issues that cause unsettling feelings and make coping with their disorder difficult.

Individuals who experience depression from the desire to cross-dress will normally receive a prescription for medication to relieve the depression symptoms as well as other tranquilizing medications for sudden bouts of negative feelings which could result in a breakdown.

The course of treatment depends on the amount of distress the person is experiencing, as well as the level of disturbance they experience in their everyday lives as a result of the disorder. Once the underlying causes receive a diagnosis, they may begin to treat them to alleviate some of the feelings which cause the individual problems. If the disorder appears early in a child’s life, they might require ongoing therapy to learn the appropriate coping mechanisms to manage their feelings and to prevent them from turning to self-medication in the form of drugs and alcohol.

In fact, there are many people who develop transvestic disorder as well as a substance abuse problem. This may stem from their feelings of shame which may prevent them from seeking help right away. Rather than go through the embarrassment of seeking the help of a trained professional, they may instead turn to substances to help ease their feelings and deal with their stress from a transvestic disorder.

Prevention of transvestic disorder

There is no specific prevention method for transvestic disorder; however, it is important for parents to acknowledge any sort of behavior which alludes to issues related to dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex. If the child seems to be experiencing a high level of stress from their manner of dressing, they should seek the professional help of a trained and qualified therapist so they can openly discuss their feelings and learn the appropriate coping mechanisms needed to deal with their disorder.

It may also become necessary for the person to begin an antidepressant which may be helpful in dealing with feelings of shame and disgust from their desire to cross-dress. One of the best ways to prevent the feelings which characterize a transvestic disorder is to ensure the patient gets intensive therapy as soon as the symptoms begin to appear to prevent further decline and disruption in their lives.

If parents witness their children dressing in the clothing of the opposite sex, they should be aware of a change in the child’s character and negative feelings regarding the act of wearing the clothing. If certain behaviors occur which are sexual in nature, they should immediately seek the help of a counselor or a mental health professional who specializes in that area of therapy and treatment. Early treatment may prevent the person from developing feelings which can become suicidal or which may make them feel aggressive.

A transvestic disorder is a condition which causes a cross-dressing individual to become depressed and ashamed of their actions. They experience sexual stimulation from their actions which can create a problem in both their personal and professional life as a result. The person will have some ramifications in their public and private life as a result and may cause a deep level of depression which requires intensive treatment to prevent them from harming themselves or others as their condition develops.

Not everyone with a transvestic disorder is a danger, some may simply experience feelings of disgust or shame, but learn how to effectively control them to prevent further damage to their psyche. People who experience depression, as a result, must undergo intensive therapy and may even require medication to get their condition under control. The prognosis for individuals who have a transvestic disorder is generally positive as long as their feelings become stabilized and they are in control of their actions.

Last Reviewed:
September 12, 2017
Last Updated:
September 12, 2017