Why does crossdressing cause anxiety?

This post answers: Why does crossdressing cause anxiety? What is crossdressing? Does crossdressing cause anxiety? Why do people cross-dress?  What is Anxiety? What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Why does crossdressing cause anxiety?

Anxiety, in one of its forms, is about the fear of social judgment. This is the most common worry among people who attempt to cross-dress. They are constantly worried about how other people will judge them.

They are also worried about other people making fun of them and in many cases rejecting or even hurting them. This gives them immense psychological anxiety. The anxiety may be extremely worse if the people who are cross-dressing are actually dissatisfied with their own biologically assigned gender.

What is crossdressing?

Crossdressing refers to a male wearing the dress of conventional females or a female wearing the dress of conventional males. It refers to the phenomenon of wearing in ways that are not considered socially appropriate for that sex or gender.

It can also be considered as the phenomenon of a man trying to present himself as a female by wearing a female attire, whatever the actual purpose of the cross-dressing may be. 

For instance, someone may wear the dress of the opposite gender for theatrical purposes and it would still be regarded as crossdressing.  

Does crossdressing cause anxiety?

Yes, people who cross-dress, for whatever purposes, face tremendous pressure from society to do so. It is true that people judge each other based on their looks. People judge pretty people as more positive and polite than people who are not pretty.

Similarly, they judge people who dress in conventional ways as more decent than people who don’t. Actually, people go as far as calling each other indecent and profane if they break the rules of conventional dressing.

So, someone who cross-dresses has a lot of anxiety to deal with. Their primary concern is how people will judge them and whether or not they would accept them. 

Why do people cross-dress?

Various people wear the clothes and attires of the other gender for many purposes. Following are some of the reasons why someone may be willing to break the conventional rules of dressing and wear the clothes of the opposite gender:

For fun

Some people do not cross-dress on a regular basis. They may occasionally cross-dress just for fun. The reason they might do so is to see how it feels like being in the other gender’s dress. 

Normal people, at one point or another, attempt cross-dressing of this sort. These people do not generally have the fear of judgment by others because they are not trying to present themselves as of the other gender.

As disguise and passing

Some people cross-dress solely for the purpose of attempting to disguise themselves as members of the other gender. This phenomenon is also referred to as passing. They do so because they want to achieve something that they otherwise can’t.

For example, a woman may try to disguise herself as a man because she wants to get a job that is strictly for men. Historically, there have been many attempts at such disguising, especially in the military. This type of cross-dressing has also remained a prominent theme in many literary works and movies.

For theatrical purposes

Sometimes a person is required to play the role of someone of the opposite gender in a drama, movie, or any other theatrical performance. Sometimes this is done solely for comical purposes because people think dressing as the other gender is funny.

Due to dissatisfaction with one’s biological gender

People are assigned gender identities of male or female when they are born, based on their physical makeup. People may, later on, feel and realize that they are not satisfied with their biological gender. 

Someone who is biologically a male may feel trapped inside the body of a female and would want to present himself and be called a female. These people repeatedly cross-dress.

In the psychological literature, this is often referred to as gender dysphoria. However, modern research on transgenderism shows that it’s actually normal for people to feel dissatisfied with their biologically assigned gender. 

As a sexual fetish

Some people cross-dress solely because they derive sexual pleasure from doing so. It is important to note that these people neither identify as someone of the other gender nor feel like someone of the opposite gender. This is referred to as transvestic disorder. Such fetishes are considered psychologically abnormal and unhealthy.

What is Anxiety?

Problems and resulting stress are usually accompanied by some common emotions like confusion, feeling at the edge, a sense of helplessness, and recurrent negative thoughts which can collectively be seen as an individual experiencing what’s commonly called  Anxiety. 

What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety? 

Anxiety is characterized by a set of signs and symptoms such as:


  • Sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sense of choking
  • Complaints of chest pain
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness
  • Fear of losing control over oneself and their environment
  • Fear of impending doom
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Increased heart rate

These symptoms vary in severity from person to person. However, it is noted that many people experience anxiety attacks that are not significantly displayed.

What are the therapy options for anxiety?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps an individual to control their anxiety by using strategies like relaxation and breathing. It works on the principles of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a kind of therapy in which an individual is exposed to a particular stimulus that they usually fear or are anxious about in a graded order.

As and when the individual gets comfortable with the situation or stimulus introduced or exposed to them with each session, individuals get more comfortable with a real-life situation that might have otherwise been a source for triggering anxiety.

Group therapy


It is based on the principle that when an individual interacts with other people who are suffering from the same fears they might not feel left alone or isolated. Group therapy usually involves a group of individuals who are experiencing similar symptoms and problems.


Anxiety can also be treated with the help of medication prescribed by a health care professional.

Though medication alone cannot help in reducing persistent anxiety it can help in restoring a sense of control and bring temporary relief. 

Online therapy  

In cases where reaching out physically to a professional is impossible or discomforting an individual can opt to seek help through the online medium. 

In this, the therapy sessions are carried out one-to-one over a video or audio call. Some individuals also prefer interacting with the therapist through text as well due to various reasons. One of the most common is the fear of being judged by the therapist or some personal hesitation. 

Online therapy can help individuals to regulate some aspects of their anxiety that aids individuals in carrying out a stress-free life over time


Cross-dressing refers to the phenomenon of trying to present oneself as someone of the opposite gender. It may be a normal phenomenon or an abnormal one, depending on the purpose of the cross-dresser. However, in all cases people who cross-dress face tremendous anxiety due to the fear of social judgment and rejection.

Frequently asked questions: Why does crossdressing cause anxiety?

Is crossdressing the same as transgenderism?

No, being transgender doesn’t require one to wear the clothes of the opposite gender. One may feel and identify as transgender in whatever attire they want to wear. Apart from that, both cisgender and transgender people may cross-dress.

Is crossdressing legal?

The legal status of cross-dressing depends upon how conservative or liberal a country or an institution is.

Is cross-dressing the same as gender dysphoria?

People with gender dysphoria, by definition, cross-dress because they feel dissatisfied with their biologically assigned gender. However, this is not a compulsory motivation of all people who attempt to cross-dress.





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