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LGBTQ+ Mental Health Issues

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Despite growing awareness of the prevalence of mental illness, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities are often overlooked. Not only do individuals within this community suffer from higher rates of mental health issues, but they often find few treatment options specialized at helping people within some minority classes.

People identifying as LGBTQ+ are more than twice as likely to develop a mental illness than their heterosexual counterparts, which may be surprising considering very few treatment centers for mental disorders provide programs aimed at their unique requirements.1

What Are the Most Common LGBTQ+ Mental Health Issues?

LQBTQ+ individuals are at a higher risk of developing a variety of mental health disorders, including:2

Anxiety

Anxiety is widespread within the LGBTQ+ population due to several risk factors, including bullying, public ridicule, and rejection. The effects of anxiety can be debilitating, preventing those suffering from the disorder from finding joy in social activities or events.

Other symptoms of anxiety include feelings of:

  • Panic
  • Constant worry
  • Agitation
  • Irritability

Depression

Struggling with the expression of your sexual orientation or gender identity can result in severe adverse effects on your mental health, especially if you’re faced with open expressions of hatred or dislike from people you care about or look up to.

These experiences cause many LGBTQ+ individuals to develop depression, which produces symptoms like:

  • Hopelessness
  • Lasting sadness
  • Unexplained sadness
  • Changes in appetite
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Insomnia

Gay men are three times more likely to develop depression than heterosexuals.3

Self-Harm

Self-harm is especially prevalent among LGBTQ+ teens and young adults. A common misconception is that people turn to cutting, burning, or injuring themselves to get attention. Although this may be true in cases where individuals don’t know how else to ask for help, most of the time those who self-harm will do anything they can to keep others from finding out.

Self-harm can be caused by a range of emotionally stressful situations like:

  • Other underlying mental illnesses
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Trying to cope with self-loathing

Eating Disorders

Around 54% of LGBTQ+ individuals are diagnosed with an eating disorder at some point in their lives.4 Eating disorders typically develop while a person is trying to gain some form of control over their lives or attempts to deal with severe emotional pain or stress.

It can be challenging to identify whether or not someone suffers from an eating disorder, although the most common symptoms include:

  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Obsession over caloric intake
  • Meal skipping
  • Exercising more than is usual or healthy

Trauma Disorders

Trauma disorders like PTSD are some of the most prevalent mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community. Trauma disorders often develop due to LGBTQ+ people being exposed to hate crimes, bullying, public ridicule, and abuse.

Symptoms of trauma disorders may include:

  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty concentrating

Suicide

Experiences convincing LGBTQ+ individuals their loved ones do not accept them, they are hated by society, or have something wrong with them can quickly lead to suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Four times more LGBTQ+ high school students attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, while 40% of transgender people will do the same.5

Without the proper treatment for their mental health problems, their struggles can quickly spiral and leave them hopeless and convinced they have no reason to continue living.

Important Risk Factors of LGBTQI Mental Health

Besides the hate crimes, rejection, ridicule, and self-loathing experienced by many LGBTQ+ individuals, the two most significant contributors to the community’s increased risk for mental health issues are:

Lack of Specialized Care

Not only do shockingly few mental health centers offer treatments aimed at the LGBTQ+ population, but around eight percent of those within the demographic have reported being denied any form of health care simply based on their sexual orientation.6

Without access to the right kind of care, most LGBTQ+ people will leave their mental health issues undiagnosed and untreated.

Substance Abuse

Due to the variety of mental disorders affecting LGBTQ+ people and the general lack of treatment, many turn to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate.

The most common substances abused by the LGBTQ+ population include:

  • Alcohol
  • Nicotine
  • Stimulants
  • Marijuana

How to Find the Right Mental Health Professional

One of the most important parts of looking for the right mental health counselor is finding someone experienced in helping those identifying as LGBTQ+. LGBTQ+ individuals who have mental illnesses need specialized therapy to identify the unique pressures and experiences that led to the development of the disorder. They also need to undergo individualized treatment in a completely judgment-free environment, which can at times be difficult to find.

If you or your loved one has a mental illness and needs help, get in touch with our specialized team today at 855-414-8100 to get the assistance you need.

Sources:

  1. https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/LGBTQI
  2. https://www.vumc.org/lgbtq/lgbtq-focus-mental-health
  3. https://www.vumc.org/lgbtq/lgbtq-focus-mental-health
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/lgbt-youth-and-mental-health#disordered-eating
  5. https://www.healthpartners.com/blog/mental-health-in-the-lgbtq-community/
  6. https://www.mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health

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