Treating Transvestism

Here is a brief but interesting link about transvestism – “Transvestism.”     There isn’t much new here for many of us.  However, it gives concise summaries of some of the treatments that have been used.

Has anyone tried any of these 3 therapies, either biofeedback, covert sensitization, or assisted aversive conditioning?  If so how did it go?    I’ve read also about a form of aversive conditioning that was successful at least in the short term with crossdressing.  They had crossdressers crossdress in front of other people and they felt shame.  But it may not have worked in the long run.  I would not suggest anything like that.  But I think other types of aversive conditioning could potentially be helpful.

I have not tried any of these methods.  I did see a psychologist about my crossdressing, but he wasn’t real helpful.  Although at least he was very teachable in that he really listened to me well and didn’t pretend to know more than he did.

For covert sensitization, I have I guess tried this in ways on my own.  I’ve imagined how ugly I look while crossdressed, which diffuses temptations, or imagined getting caught.   Imagining myself getting caught didn’t do much for me, it only added to my caution and secretiveness.  But imagining myself as a man in a dress, (which wasn’t too hard), did help me to resist and not desire crossdressing as much.    It cut through the deception of crossdressing.

I have also in the past slapped myself on the chest after crossdressing, trying to give myself a pain association with it, but that ultimately wasn’t real helpful.  I’ve also tried fasting from food for 1 or 2 days after any crossdressing failures.  I probably did that for almost a year, and it didn’t really help me at all.  It made me think more seriously about crossdressing, but it didn’t actually help me to resist it.  My body was so weak from lack of food at times, that I just gave in to crossdressing without thinking clearly.  I wanted to satisfy at least 1 bodily pleasure if I wasn’t going to have food.  Conversely, sometimes I would forget the reasons why I didn’t want to crossdress in the first place, and only thought about the fasting, and so I rationalized that fasting for a day was worth it if I could crossdress, and so I gave in.

I guess ultimately I’m not sure how helpful any of these treatments, or my own personal methods were.  What really helped me to stop, was finally really “wanting” to stop, and finally really “believing” that I could control myself.  Once I wanted to stop, and once I believed I could control myself, then I did control myself and I stopped.  And that was that.  Maybe we make it more complicated by focusing on all of these other treatments.  If the goal is not just to control ourselves, but to take away our desires for it, I think the best way to take away our desires for crossdressing is just to not crossdress for a while.  Once you control yourself and resist the temptations to crossdress for a while, at least for me, the desires for it get less and less over time.

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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20 comments on “Treating Transvestism

  1. Eric says:

    I understand your good intentions Thorin. I can’t recommend inducing physical pain to resolve a mental issue. Too many people I’ve talked to try to self-medicate with pain and/or suicide.

    I know 90-99% of your audience is CD, but the idea of a penis getting caught in a zipper (and much, much worse thoughts-I’ll spare you) is actually a positive to TS. “Once and for all this foreign tissue is gone, and I won’t be blamed.”

    I don’t agree with everything (most?) of the official APA SOC, but here they are:
    http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/programs/transgender/index.aspx
    http://www.thisishow.org/Files/soc7.pdf

    A few points that can be taken away. Talk therapy is effective. Treatment needs to be customized. And every therapist needs to help with the problem that the client identifies. Like for you Thorin, you have clearly stated that you want to stop cross-dressing. Regardless of what the therapist thinks of that goal, they need to either help you or tell you that they will not work with you.

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  2. thorin25 says:

    I agree Eric about not inducing pain, that is why I said I didn’t recommend that either, and when I actually did so in the past, it didn’t really help anything. I posted the link just as something to read about the issue, not to say I agree with what it says.

    Those look like good links you sent, and one of them is a long read. I won’t be able to get to it right away, but I plan to eventually. Thank you!

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  3. Eric says:

    Clearly you say you are against those methods. The link did recommend imagined pain, and that’s why I commented. I’m admittedly oversensitive to self-harm.

    The link used the term transvestite, which sent off a red flag. That term started being replaced with cross-dresser in the 70’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transvestism

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  4. thorin25 says:

    Eric, thanks again for the comment. But I guess I do disagree with you in some way. I’m against self-harm. But I do think imagined pain can be helpful. I think imagining the real consequences of your actions can be helpful. Imagining the pain your wife would feel finding out about what you are doing, the betrayal and broken trust she would experience. Imagining the consequences of getting caught. Imagining the feelings of shame and embarrassment you would have if people saw you crossdressed. I guess this is imagining emotional pain rather than physical pain, and maybe you were just talking about physical pain.

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  5. Eric says:

    I would say that is truly understanding the consequences of your actions. It’s not a hypothetical. Although I would recommend having a trusted counselor as you go through this healing process. Even an accountability partner is good.

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  6. Marky says:

    I agree Thorin that it all starts with a conscious decision that you want to stop and that you can. For so long I thought I couldn’t. It’s was only just today in the car that I was driving along thinking about how 12 months ago I would never have believed that I could have gone for protracted periods without being mentally tortured to the point where I gave in – 10 days was usually my absolute breaking point – I’m pushing it out now to 60 days.

    OK in the grand scheme of things this is pretty ‘small fry’ but I suppose it’s a bit like the 4 minute mile – no one could break it for ages but when Roger Bannister broke it – within a short period a large number of other people quickly followed in his footsteps.

    When I saw that others here were making it – suddenly I realised, actually maybe this is possible.I’d been searching for about a year. The candeo programme gave me a great start and a real insight as to what was happening and useful for a period. Truthfully – over the last year – during my successes I’ve never felt such liberty but also during my periods of failure I have never been so trapped. Just trying to break free has polarised the whole experience and made it more intense at both ends of the spectrum.

    My point..Find out what works, what buys you a little mental space. When you get this space drive a wedge in it – and keep pushing it out, build mental muscle. Keep at it.

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  7. thorin25 says:

    Hi Marky, keep up the good work! Congrats! It gets easier as you go, (at least it did for me). The beginning is the hardest, it’s almost like you have to let it get cleansed out of your system. It has to become habit of not giving in. And once that habit has really really sunk in, then it’s almost like you forget about it. I’m not promising that your desires for it will go away, but me they have largely gone away, at least for now. It’s no longer a daily battle. This is who I am now, a free man.

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  8. daniel_in_tx says:

    Here’s the problem I have. If you have decided to “set aside” crossdressing as something unhealthy, where do you draw the line between what’s ok and what’s not? Even if you take deut. 22:5 straightforwardly, without trying to reinterpret or adjust it at all, a fair reading would be that women crossdressing is equally as bad as men crossdressing, but this certainly isn’t the way people treat it; women crossdress all the time without anyone caring a bit. What are we supposed to do with that double standard?

    If the idea is supposed to be that men and women shouldn’t wear the same things at all, who decides where that line is? Women wear pretty much everything, so we would have to take some things back and say, men get pants, women get dresses. Women get skirts, men get shorts, and so on. Right?

    If you say, well, women’s pants are different from men’s pants, ok, fine. But does that mean if someone opens a store and sells kilts and “men’s skirts”, then that’s just as acceptable? If not, why not?

    What if I make my own clothes? If I make myself a purple shirt with some sparkly beads on it, and wear it along with the rest of my male attire, do I get to decide that it’s a “men’s shirt” because I made it?

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  9. thorin25 says:

    Hi Daniel. Thanks for the comment. I do have other posts that address your questions. But I’ll try to summarize some of my answers. It’s not about legalistic rules, and not about trying to figure out which fabrics or styles are inherently masculine or feminine. It’s about motivation. It’s about addiction. It’s about trying to be something you are not.

    I don’t think women crossdress all the time. On the rare occasions that they wear clothing fitted for men or made for men, I don’t like it, and I don’t find it funny or attractive. I can’t help the rest of our culture having a double standard with that, but I do not. Women wearing pants is not crossdressing. They are not trying to appear as men, and not trying to dress like men. And when the change originally happened in our culture, they were doing so to be able to wear more practical clothing, not to pretend to be men.

    I don’t decide where the line is about men and women wearing separate things. Each culture does. And each culture’s view of clothing for men and women gradually changes over time. I believe that is fine and natural. The goal is to generally respect the boundaries our culture has set up, and dress in the way that men dress rather than trying to appear as a woman.

    I wouldn’t like to see a man wearing a skirt. But I would force myself to handle it well if it’s just a man who thinks skirts are more practical than pants, and wants men to be able to wear them as a part of natural male clothing. Fine. But that is not what “crossdressers” do, referring to the type of crossdresser I was and the type of person this blog is talking to. I’m talking about crossdressers who have an unhealthy obsession with female clothing and makeup, not because they just like it practically, but because it is feminine according to our culture. Some crossdress this way for sexual pleasure, others find emotional security through it, others relieve stress through it, others find adventure in appearing as a woman, and some are thinking that they actually should be women, and considering a sex change. Those are the types of crossdressers I’m referring to, and they have an obsession with the clothing that goes beyond, “oh I think our culture would do well to let men wear x article of clothing as well as women.”

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  10. daniel_in_tx says:

    Well, I’m not asking about it hypothetically. I do have my own struggles with this issue. But my point is that if you decide you are going to try and stand against desires for feminine styled things, it’s hard to know where to draw the line.

    Don’t buy/wear things from the women’s side of the store? Ok, that’s straightforward enough. But what about pink stuff from the men’s side? You seem to be saying that it’s more about your reaction to the clothes than the clothes themselves, which makes sense.

    But it’s harder when not everything is sexual. Do I have to avoid everything I might like because I can’t trust my own judgement? If I see two notebooks at the office store, and I reaaaaly want the purple one with the butterfly instead of the black one, do I go with what I think “most guys” would pick? What about tv shows? Movies? If I would be embarrassed to admit that I liked something as a guy, does that mean I should just leave it alone?

    How do I separate out the things that are harming my relationship with my wife and God from the things that don’t really matter (but that society has an opinion on anyway)? I know that a lot of the stereotypes our society has for both men and women are harmful, but I have a really hard time figuring out where to draw the line.

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  11. daniel_in_tx says:

    Is this relatable to 1 corinthians 10:23? “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive.”

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  12. thorin25 says:

    Well first of all Daniel, where are you at on the crossdressing issue? Is this something you are trying to get out of your life, something you are trying to stop? Or are you just wondering what I think?

    I don’t know if we have to draw a line. It’s about using discernment in specific situations and determining what our motives are. Am I watching a chick flick because I think it is feminine and it gives me a thrill? Or is something fun for me to do, something I enjoy, as a man? If you read some of my other posts, you will find that I am very much against rigid gender stereotypes. I don’t think we have to be ashamed if we do things different from the average man. But if we are purposely doing things or wearing things that women do, “in order to” be more feminine or be like a woman, that is where the problem comes in, and we have to sort out our own motivations.

    I think you are making it more complicated than it is by picking out the borderline issues. I haven’t had such struggles in my giving up of crossdressing and its been over a year. Yes I’ve worn a purple shirt. No I’m no longer putting on makeup or wearing dresses. Yes I watch romantic movies. No I don’t try to talk in a way that makes me sound like a woman. Most of it is common sense. The details are for each of us to sort out on our own, but hopefully we do so with the help and wisdom of other brothers.

    If you were worried about what to do in a particular situation, I’d be glad to discuss it with you. But all the hypotheticals I don’t think are really helpful, and they can’t really be dealt with in a vacuum apart from context and the specific person, and specific marriage even.

    Here is another thing to think about. When I still wanted to rationalize crossdressing, I would think about all the hypotheticals. I would say to myself, “well if that would be okay, because it is not technically crossdressing, than I can do that, and that means I can even do that.” And then I would do it. But it boiled down to being crossdressing for me, because that was the reason I was doing it. I was struggling to determine whether they were crossdressing or not, because I was trying to find ways to rationalize that certain things weren’t, which showed that crossdressing still had a huge hold on me. Once I made the firm decision to stop crossdressing for good, those kinds of questions stopped coming, they became a non-issue. I don’t know you, but perhaps that is where you are at, in a similar situation as to what I was in.

    I think the Corinthians verse does give us much wisdom that can be applied to this issue. If you want to be legalistic, there are a lot of things you “could” potentially do and they wouldn’t break any commands of God. But are they safe for me to do with my peculiar temptations? For a concrete example, I firmly believe it is okay for men to wear aprons, but I’m still not at the point of wearing the apron my wife has, because for me I have read too many crossdressing stories that started with an apron as something that led to actual crossdressing. So for me, I know I technically could wear it and not feel guilty. But I also know that it’s not wise for me to do so because it would lead to crossdressing thoughts.

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  13. ikthys says:

    I think doing biofeedback exercises would be really interesting and profoundly valuable. I wonder what all they measure. As for covert sensitization, I have done like you Thorin and tried not so much to imagine random bad things, but to be more concrete and imagine the REAL bad things that are related to the desire, but which we have to ignore or minimize in our crossdressing makebelieve world. The problem with other attempts (like sudden thoughts of random pain and horror that are meant to shock us into not drifting into those fantasies anymore) is that, while it gets to the thoughts that preceed the behavior, which I think is important, it is equivalent to a suppression technique where the thoughts are not only left unevaluated in the light for what they really are, but they also are blocked from ever getting there by intentionally trying to stop them like holding back the waters of a dam. As for aversive conditioning, you’ve already heard how I tried some of that. To be exact, I once wore pair of heels and jumped up and down really hard until my toes were getting hurt, and then crunched around in them inflcting a bit more pain. I also crossed my legs in a way that was painful to my testes. It worked to cease my arrousal at that moment, but did little to disway any future desires because, again, it didn’t really deal with the original thoughts/desires that can still (after over a year- almost two of sobriety) be strong at times for me. I think one big problem with this technique is that it could all too easily widen one’s sexual interest to pain itself like SM stuff. Overall, the most effective thing for me has been a combination of disarming my own desire by scrutinizing it to death and diffusing my behavior by forcing myself to think realistically (the kryptonite of any crossdressing fantasy). Even imagining getting caught would sometimes bring the greatest arousal, but that’s only because I wasn’t imagining what it would REALLY be like if I got caught…

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  14. thorin25 says:

    Ikthys, thanks for the comment. Very insightful. I agree about the danger of suppression with some of the techniques you talked about. I would have to agree with SM possibility as well, I think sometimes we can learn to be sexualized to new triggers. Also interesting what you said about imagining getting caught, that certainly was a large part of many of the crossdressing fiction stories I read, but it certainly is helpful to imagine what would REALLY happen.

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  15. Vivienne says:

    Very interesting points here. To answer your original question, I haven’t tried any treatment to stop crossdressing. I once took antidepressants for a year. The urge to crossdress did not disappear during this time, but the intensity was noticeably lessened, which taught me two things: crossdressing is not depression (nor anxiety) per se, and that crossdressing is a refuge from emotional distress in my daily life. By alleviating some of that background distress, some of the urge to crossdress seemed to abate. But of course, not all of my motivation to crossdress is to retreat from my daily life, and the other attractions to crossdressing were not diminished.
    As you know, Thorin, I replied in detail to your other post about “Treatment for Transvestism”. I remain firm in my conviction that crossdressing cannot be “cured”. I remember when my Dad quit smoking. Many years later, someone asked him if he were a smoker or a non-smoker. He replied “I am a smoker who is doing without”. For him, he had not yet become a non-smoker, though he did eventually judge himself to be one.
    I really like chocolate. I am sure I will always like chocolate. But there are so many other delicious foods. I might agree that chocolate is fattening, and bad for my teeth. I might choose to give up chocolate for health or other reasons. I might get used to eating other foods instead, when I feel like I want a bit of chocolate. I might even get over my cravings for chocolate, so that days go by when I don’t think about chocolate. But I am pretty sure that, for the whole of my life, I will always, deep down, like chocolate. No amount of ice cream, or insalata caprese, or fresh lobster will replace chocolate. And for me, crossdressing is the same. I recognise its harms. But sometimes, only chocolate hits the spot.

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  16. thorin25 says:

    Hi Vivienne, I think I agree with you at least somewhat. I wouldn’t be surprised if my desires for crossdressing never completely went away even when I am 80 years old. But they have largely went away already, and only get less strong as the weeks and months go by that I don’t crossdress. That is why I never advise people to quit crossdressing without telling them that likely there desires won’t go away and they will have to learn to control them.

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  17. dramaking says:

    For me it was actually understanding at a heart level let go and let God. One of the things that turned it around for me was actually trusting that God could and would help me realize that I could stop. The challenge we have I believe is that we do all these things on our own and I truly believe that I can do nothing without God’s help. It doesn’t mean that I am still not tempted even now after a year or that I don’t have any of those thoughts, but as others have mentioned, they do lessen.
    Rationalization is what addicts do best and I certainly did that as well,but it was only when I finally realized that it is not a good idea for me to have a thought on my own that I started to grow in recovery. That is what Jesus put you and others in my life for. If I have a thought about whether I should do x or maybe wear y then I need to bring that thought out into the light with you guys and in so doing will most likely be told in a loving and supportive way that my thinking was really full of it. Lol Seriously share some of those passing thoughts with another brother and you will be given insight by the Holy Spirit that you should rethink your position. The old adage about you can’t bs a bser is so true in the world of recovery and thank God for that gift. I know that if I share with another what I might be thinking of doing I will see the folly of my thoughts and we will both have a good laugh and move on. I have to rely on my fellow believers to keep me headed in the right direction because I can’t trust my own thinking. After all that is how I got here in the first place!

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  18. thorin25 says:

    So so true dramaking. I hope our email prayer chain is doing a bit of that. But I know you had the great opportunity to have that kind of accountability and encouragement from brothers in real life in a small group. I think our prayer chain is good but maybe not a substitute for the power of a real life group of brothers like you had. But I guess that might not be available for some people depending on where they live and their circumstances. Thanks for the comment 🙂

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  19. James Hopkins says:

    I found that asking yourself four questions and answering them honestly without any thought of what you think your should or ought to say, but just what you actually feel can help:

    1) What do I love about cross-dressing?
    2) What do I hate about cross-dressing?
    3) What do I love about not cross-dressing?
    4) What do I hate about not cross-dressing?

    Generally speaking, we are hot-wired to do what we truly love and avoid what we truly hate. I honestly love how I look and how I feel when I cross-dress. I have full-blown autogynephilia.
    But, I hate how my cross-dressing makes my now ex-wife feel. It actually gives her abdominal pain.
    I love not cross-dressing because my wife and children like seeing their father as the alpha-male the see him as and because I feel good looking like a real father figure or husband when I am around them. I hate not cross-dressing, however, because I become drowsy, out of focus, depressed, and unable to do my work as a medical research assistant on my computer when I don’t cross-dress.

    I treated my urges to cross-dress like an OCD condition, which is similar to an addiction problem but not really the same. I went to a PhD Psychologist who belonged to my church. He used cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure-response therapy, and “come-to-your-senses” therapy. Nothing helped. I felt that my urges to cross-dress could be controlled medically and sought the help of a religious psychiatrist. Many consider OCD to be an anxiety-related condition and tried anti-anxiety medications and anti-depressants. None of them worked either.

    For a year and a half, however, I was able to completely get rid of my cross-dressing urges by taking St. John’s Wort for mild depression, Luvox for OCD, and Vyvanse for ADD and alertness. Unfortunately, the combination proved toxic. I developed the serotonin syndrome, which is characterized by extreme fatigue with minimal exertion, and I eventually had what is called a lacunar stroke in my left right frontal lobe, which was characterized by left hand clumsiness and slurred speech, which fortunately resolved after 3-4 weeks.

    I was told that could not resume taking any anti-depressants because they could induce seizures and could not resume taking any central nervous system stimulants because they could induce another lacunar stroke.

    I finally decided that not cross-dressing was a hopeless effort for me. I discussed this problem with my minister. I volunteered frequently to teach in Sunday School and sang in the choir. I commonly fell asleep in church, however, without taking Vyvanse. Caffeine helped for a few hours a day. I could not take it after 2 pm, however, because it would disturb my sleep. Cross-dressing allowed me to wake up and work and theoretically could help me stay alert in church. It also helped rather severe depression. He suggested that I cross-dress at in private only so that I could work and treat my depression. I agreed that I could get through church and avoid public cross-dressing by taking caffeine in the morning and early afternoon.

    This compromise has worked for me. My ex-wife of 35 years sees me often, and we do things together as a family with our children. We do not date other people. We have always been completely faithful to each other and still are despite our divorce. Divorce has been hard on my ex-wife. She feels terribly lonely, even though she calls me and we see each other often. I frankly consider divorce to be worse than non-public cross-dressing.

    Cross-dressing has been a difficult cross for me to bear. It has humbled me greatly. I thought that with God’s help, I could overcome anything. Evidently, it is his will that I suffer this weakness with a determination not to let it overcome my will to live. I believe a live cross-dresser is better than a dead one. Even my ex-wife agrees with this. She really needs me, and I need her. With love for Gad and each other, we can survive and make the rest of our days in mortality at least somewhat tolerable.

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  20. thorin25 says:

    Thank you for your story James. In my outside opinion, part of the problem I see from your story is that you stopped crossdressing without a substitute. The needs you were trying to meet through crossdressing need to be met through God and through other healthy activities.

    For an analogy, think of a drug addict. They don’t become healthy just by giving up the drugs and detoxing. They need counseling for the underlying issues, they need purpose in life, they need friends, they need meaningful work to do, they need God’s love, grace, forgiveness, peace and mission.

    I think that is probably the main issue you had. I fully believe you could still give up crossdressing and have a healthy life

    Take a look at this post and tell me what you think – https://healingcd.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/an-alternative-method-integration-and-contentment/

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