Outbreak: On Transgender Teens and Psychic Epidemics

Having lived through both World Wars, Jung was aware of the dangers of what he termed “psychic epidemics.” He discussed the spontaneous manifestation of an archetype within collective life as indicative of a critical time during which there is a serious risk of a destructive psychic epidemic.

Currently, we appear to be experiencing a significant psychic epidemic that is manifesting as children and young people coming to believe that they are the opposite sex, and in some cases taking drastic measures to change their bodies. Of particular concern to the author is the number of teens and tweens suddenly coming out as transgender without a prior history of discomfort with their sex.

“Rapid-onset gender dysphoria” is a new presentation of a condition that has not been well studied. Reports online indicate that a young person’s coming out as transgender is often preceded by increased social media use and/or having one or more peers also come out as transgender. These factors suggest that social contagion may be contributing to the significant rise in the number of young people seeking treatment for gender dysphoria.

Current psychotherapeutic practice involves immediate affirmation of a young person’s self-diagnosis, which often leads to support for social and even medical transition. Although this practice will likely help small numbers of children, there may also be many false positives.

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