Sex Change Hormones May Alter Depression Risk

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Individuals that undergo a sex change operation may have an increase risk of a depression as a result of the hormone treatments given during gender reassignment.

The study conducted by Rupert Lanzenberger, MD, Medical University of Vienna, Austria, and colleagues sought to evaluate depression in people going through gender reassignment surgery. Hormone treatments significantly alter the recipient’s physical appearance to match that of the opposite sex, and include changes in voice, muscle tone, complexion and body shape.

Receiving the male hormone testosterone in female-to-male transsexuals raised brain levels of SERT, the protein that transports the chemical messenger serotonin into nerve cells, the researchers reported in the journal Biological Chemistry. However, male-to-female transsexuals who received a testosterone blocker and the female hormone estrogen showed decreased levels of SERT.

SERT plays an important function in the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders as many antidepressants work to block its activity by inhibiting serotonin uptake. And some studies have indicated that high levels of SERT may boost resilience to stress and mitigate risk for mood disorders.

The findings seem to suggest that when people switch from female to male, their biology changes in a way that is consistent with a reduced risk for mood and anxiety disorders, but the reverse happens when males switch to females.

Sex Change Hormones May Alter Depression Risk
When people switch from female to male, their biology changes in a way that is consistent with a reduced risk for mood and anxiety disorders.

Hormonal treatments given as part of the sex reassignment process alters an individual's brain chemistry, increasing the risk of depression in male-to-female transsexuals and lowering the risk in female-to-males, according to a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The process aligns the transsexual's risk of depression with the established risk of their desired gender.

Researchers and doctors have long known and documented the bodily effects of gender reassignment hormonal treatments. These hormones greatly alter the secondary sexual characteristics of the adult body, shifting a recipient's physical appearance to that of the opposite sex. Changes occur involving hair growth and texture, voice, muscle tone, complexion, and overall body shape.

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