Dear DR. Darcy,
I am a 37 year old man with PTSD and a severe anxiety disorder. I use crossdressing ( hair, make-up, nails, etc.), acting feminine, and presenting as female, as a coping mechanism.
It really seems to calm me down and keep me chilled out.
What is your opinion on this? Do you have any thoughts on the matter?
Is it normal? (dealing with stress this way)?
People deal with stress in as many different ways as there are types of people. That said, cross-dressing isn’t a long-term solution to PTSD, as I’m sure you know. Presuming you’ve received PTSD as a diagnosis by an accredited diagnostician, you should have been pointed in the direction of therapy. I want to be crystal clear here that I’m not implying that cross-dressing is a problem or even a symptom, rather, that it only provides you with momentary relief from a disorder that warrants clinical treatment. You deserve to be anxiety free. Once you are, it will be interesting to see the purpose cross-dressing plays in your life.
We’ve been using dress-up for centuries as a method to feel better. My mother’s generation wouldn’t have been caught dead without perfectly applied lipstick, proper heels and well-manicured nails. And I’ve often confided in my friends that on the days when I look the best (took more time in selecting my outfit, chose great accessories, changed my makeup), I’m often overcompensating for not feeling my best. I spend the rest of the day thanking people for the compliments that I receive, and guess what? Those compliments make me feel better.
We can spin anything into pathology. Ironically, those behaviors that would truly qualify as "crazy" are typically things we do that are beyond our awareness; meaning, we’re not asking, “Is this normal?” My personal “normal” meter involves 4 questions: Do you realize what you are doing? Do you know the purpose it serves? Does it endanger you? Does it endanger anyone else? If you answer Yes, Yes, No, No, you’re unlikely to wind up in a padded room, which really is the essence of our concerns when it comes to judging our coping mechanisms.