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Since the World Health Organization (WHO) removed Gender Dysphoria from its International Classification of Disease (ICD) on 25th May, many took to social media to celebrate the news,  representing to some degree an end to one example of the  stigmatisation of transgender people. Others were worried that removing the diagnosis of  mental illness that clinically defined transgenderism, insurance companies might not pay out for hormone therapy treatments and certain operations.

In reality, the WHO has moved “gender incongruence” out of its mental disorders section from the ICD, and placed it under the sexual health conditions category. The official WHO website explains that while evidence is now clear that being transgender is not a mental disorder, there remain significant health care needs that can best be met if the condition is coded under the ICD. In other words, people who have access to insurances covering their procedures and treatments will not be affected by this change.

Moreover, the WHO states that for mental health conditions, ICD codes are especially important since the ICD is a diagnostic tool, and thus, these are the conditions that often garner much of the interest in the ICD. The WHO has added newly found disorders, such as gaming disorder, into its ICD. Other addictive behaviours such as hoarding disorder are now included in ICD-11, and conditions such as ‘excessive sexual drive’ have been reclassified as ‘compulsive sexual behaviour disorder’.

The WHO explains that a significant change in the mental disorders section of ICD-11 is the attempt of statisticians to simplify the codes as much as possible to allow for coding of mental health conditions by primary health care providers rather than by mental health specialists. This will be a critical move since the world still has a scarcity of mental health specialisst – around 90% of those requiring mental healthcare do not receive it.

WHO’s Dr. Lale Say, explains in this video:

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Andréa Oldereide

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