Dysphoria, particularly sex dysphoria, is a disconnect between the body and the mind. It is a person saying they are something separate from their body, and that their body needs to change. Their body is somehow making them unsafe, preventing them from being who they are, or just feels wrong to them. This is a kind of dualism, saying that we are something separate from our bodies, when on some fundamental level we are our bodies.
To become separate from the body is to be dissociated. Dissociation is not necessarily bad. It is a mechanism that evolved to escape from pain, and to escape from trauma. In moderation, it is a healthy response. When it becomes habitual, it becomes problematic. Habitual dissociation often arises in response to trauma. It is a great way to escape from pain, particularly if horrible things are happening which you have no control over. This mechanism provides a way to survive the trauma, and to maintain sanity. Unfortunately the habit of dissociation remains long after the initial trauma has passed.
However, there is a cost to be paid for dissociation. Dissociation means to be disconnected from the real needs of the body. Long-term dissociation is often done by retreating into the conceptualized self, which is the story that one tells about oneself. It is possible to become completely disconnected from the body and live in a conceptualized self. There is a price to pay for this. For one, such compensations are fragile. On some level the person knows this is false and requires validation from others to maintain the compensation. Also, the person mistakes the conceptualized self for the embodied self which leads them to following their conceptualized self rather than what is truly nourishing for them.
Finally, it is never enough. The original need that the dissociation was created for has never been healed.
For me, I suffered from intense sex dysphoria. I hated everything male about my body, from my size, to my large hands, to its hairiness. Changing my body did not heal this. My body became softer, more hairless, and curvier. I did not always pass, but I was often seen as a woman by others. This did not heal my relationship to my body, and my body was frequently wracked in tension. My back was twisted in knots. I thought it was because I could not change it enough. I contemplated various kinds of plastic surgery, but never went through it.
I did not think my body tension had anything to do with my gender, but as I began to heal my relationship with my body I discovered its natural way of moving and being. The very source of the tension was the attempt to present myself as female. Unwinding this tension was a slow process as I had to work through my negative feelings about being male, both feelings that it was unsafe to be a feminine male, and feelings that men were evil and it wasn’t good to be one.
However, once I did that I found that things such as body hair or other male characteristics did not bother me anymore. I even welcomed their return when I went on T. I also found that I was no longer plagued by frequent dissociation and intense tension in my body. Things are certainly not perfect, but much better than they were. I still have tension in my body, but less. However, the dissociation is gone. For me dissociation and dysphoria were intricately linked.