Dysphoria and Aphantasia?

DiscussionsCategory: QuestionsDysphoria and Aphantasia?
Rachel CicconeRachel C asked 6 months ago

I tried posting this on another social media site, but didn’t get any responses or help, so I’m going to post this here.

I’m afab and In the last nine months or so, I’ve questioned that. It’s been a lot more severe in the last two months, where I’ve been struggling with possible dysphoria. I’m turning 20 in November and I haven’t questioned this at all until now. Dysphoria is when you feel part(s) of your body to not match your gender. It is similar to dysmorphia, but they are not exchangeable, as dysmorphia is the feeling of part(s) of your body being incredibly flawed, and need to be ‘changed’ or ‘fixed’.

And I feel like my possible dysphoria could be related to my aphantasia. I can’t picture or visualize myself in my head, so I don’t know what I look like. When I look in the mirror, I do feel off put when I see my face, like that isn’t who I really am, and a stranger is in the mirror. That I feel empty on the inside. I never really knew why I felt this way, it’s just always been with me, and it’s a heavy emptiness I have grown attached to. I can’t look myself in the eye when I look in a mirror. These are some ways that dysphoria can manifest in a person.

Therefore, I just can’t tell if it’s my aphantasia, or dysphoria, or what. Can aphantasia cause dysphoria? Can they arise separately? I can’t visualize myself as another gender even if I wanted, so I don’t even know if that’s something that people do. I also don’t have an internal voice, so I can’t hear myself when I talk in my head, and I can’t change what my voice sounds like to “match” genders. I just feel really lost and unsure.

Ian LIan L replied 3 months ago

Hi there! I am FtM and I can really understand where you are coming from with having a hard time visualising what it would be like being the opposite sex. The good (but also not great) thing about this is that no one really knows that they will look or sound like, aphantasia or not. It’s a level playing field in mystery there. I’m not sure if aphantasia would really be able to manifest dysphoria in a person. There are a lot of images online of people looking into the mirror and seeing the version of themselves they truly feel inside (the opposite sex in the reflection) but this is an inaccurate depiction as I’ve heard no one say this was something they were able to do. So being able to conjure up an image of yourself as the opposite sex likely wouldn’t really help with dysphoria at all. In my experience, I’ve never been able to picture my own face either and I had similar feelings arise upon looking into the mirror. There was a sense of shock at seeing my true reflection and feeling like it wasn’t actually me but at the same time not being able to picture exactly what the true me would be if not for my reflection. I’d say what you are experiencing does sound like it could very well be dysphoria and it would be already standard dysphoria experience with simply the added layer of also having aphantasia. Good luck, figuring yourself out can be extremely challenging! Like the other respondent, I would try referring to yourself as different names and pronouns just to yourself when you are alone. This helped me out a lot, also I knew I had a negative reaction when I was called she/her by other people so it was just a matter of figuring out if they/them or he/him was a better fit.

3 Answers
Fenella KennedyFenella Kennedy answered 5 months ago

I’m aphantasic and non-binary – my pronouns are they/them. I did experience strong dysphroria before I had surgery to transition, and now I do not. My advice to you would be to try experimenting with different kinds of gendered behaviour – if you say “I am a woman,” or “I am a man” or “I am neither a woman nor a man,” do any of those feel radically right or wrong compared to the others? If your friends call you he, she, or they, does one feel more accurate than the rest? Is there a way of dressing that makes you feel confident and secure in your own skin? Do certain bits of your body feel wrong or right? Is that consistent?

I think you’re right that aphantasia makes it harder to understand dysphoria, and to experiment internally with how you visualise your own gender. I didn’t realise I was transgender until my mid-twenties, although when I look back I’d been saying that my gender was wrong for a long time before that.

I hope that you are in a life situation where you feel safe to try out different modes of gendered life and expression, and find a way of being that feels right to you. If you can access therapy, that’s also a good place to start talking about those feelings.

Rachel C replied 5 months ago

Thank you so much for your reply!
I’m not really sure I am in the right life situation to try out different gendered expression; I don’t think I could ever tell my parents, specifically my mother, that I have aphantasia, let alone that I might not be a girl anymore. I’ve been going to my school’s pride club, so that has been helping, but it’s a huge struggle. I don’t think anyone else really experiences dysphoria like how we do with aphantasia. Especially because I have not felt that I was possibly the wrong gender when I was really young.

I did get a response from the other post I made, and the person replied was transmasc but did not have aphantasia. They said that they didn’t really visualize their gender either. So that isn’t just an aphantasia thing with gender either? But I have also heard of people giving themselves voice dysphoria because their internal voice does not match their actual voice, and I don’t have an internal voice, so it’s also something I can’t relate to.
I also know cis people can experience dysphoria too, so it isn’t just common in trans/non-binary people either. So idk.

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