Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender is not a mental illness issue. However, many LGBTQ youths and LGBTQ adults in the community nevertheless struggle with mental health issues. Fear and anxiety about being judged, or struggles to define yourself, can lead to serious problems for which mental health treatment becomes essential.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, LGBTQ+ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to struggle with a mental health disorder than heterosexual individuals. For teenagers, those numbers are even higher. And yet, members of the LGBTQ+ community deserve to be as happy as everyone else around them.
This guide will uncover some of the most common mental health challenges members of this community face and how to get the mental health resources they need for long-term health and happiness.
How Mental Health Impacts the LGBTQ+ Community
Many LGBTQ+ mental health concerns originally stem from feelings of isolation. As outlined by experts at the University of Utah, feeling different or fears of feeling unaccepted are much more common in this community due to continuing stigmas related to what society around them considers to be “normal.”
Most people experience some anxiety or depression during their lifetime. Their social support network of friends and family typically prevents the issue from worsening. Without that social support system, anxiety and depression can easily worsen. Making it more challenging to overcome the initial struggles and fall deeper into the illness.
Unfortunately, turning to addictive substances is a typical response to this isolation and vicious cycle. It’s why, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, LGBTQ+ adults are more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs and almost twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse disorder compared to their heterosexual counterparts.
As with any patient, mental health concerns can present themselves in various ways. Let’s explore some of the most common LGBTQ+ mental health issues in the community today.
LGBTQ+ and Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges in the United States. And this mental health condition disproportionally affects members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s especially prevalent among adolescents and young adults and is the leading cause of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth mental health today.
Of course, the adverse symptoms of depression are not just limited to suicide. Discrimination, victimization and emotional or physical abuse can have potentially serious consequences for adolescents and adults alike. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender is more common for people in the LGBTQ+ population. Depression can ruin relationships, increase social isolation, and lead to a higher chance of alcohol and drug abuse.
Early discovery and treatment from a mental health professional become vital in trying to minimize these harmful consequences. Professional help may be needed to overcome depression and embrace the positive aspects of life. Outside support can be essential when someone does not have support at home, work, or school.
LGBTQ+ and Anxiety
Like depression, members of the LGBTQ+ community have higher rates of anxiety disorders. Some studies estimate from a national survey that up to 60% of LGBTQ+ individuals experience anxiety.
Anxiety tends to go hand in hand with depression. It can be both a symptom of clinical depression and a cause of depression. Being anxious or suffering panic attacks because of the stigmas associated with being non-heterosexual and “different” can lead to social isolation. Some LGBTQ+ patients may also experience self-blame.
As with depression, the symptoms and consequences of anxiety can be devastating. Some symptoms may include heart palpitations, rapid and shallow breathing, and fatigue. When not appropriately treated substance abuse and even suicide can be too common among LGBTQ+ patients when not appropriately treated.
LGBTQ+ and Bipolar Disorder
Individuals with bipolar disorders can feel extreme emotions that range from depressive to manic. Their mood, energy, activity, and concentration levels can swing drastically. This can impact their overall well-being and their ability to carry out daily tasks.
The disease can lead to depression and extreme feelings of sadness, worthlessness, loneliness, and guilt. At its worst, bipolar disorder can lead to a psychosis that disconnects the patient from reality. They may start seeing or hearing things that don’t exist.
Scientists don’t yet fully understand precisely how bipolar disorder first develops. Genetic factors may play a role, as do environmental factors like emotional abuse in early developmental stages. A history of depression and anxiety, alongside experiences of bullying and discrimination, may also be contributing factors.
Research has been inconclusive on whether people who identify as LGBTQ+ are at an increased risk of bipolar disorder. However, it remains a significant mental health risk for LGBTQ+ individuals, potentially requiring mental health care to prevent devastating consequences.
LGBTQ+ and Borderline Personality Disorder
LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. This condition manifests in self-image issues, difficulty managing emotions and behavior, and difficulties maintaining successful relationships. However, it is unclear whether these increased diagnoses are due to a higher risk of BPD within the LGBTQ+ community or a bias in the medical community that diagnoses the anxieties and stressors often felt by queer individuals as symptoms of the illness.
Regardless, the symptoms of BPD are significant enough to warrant support and treatment. LGBTQ+ individuals with BPD are prone to physical and psychological self-harm, sometimes even leading to suicide.
Find Treatment for Mental Health with No Matter What
Too often, individuals in the LGBTQ+ community suffer from mental health problems ranging from depression to borderline personality disorder, brought upon them by a societal and personal network that still doesn’t fully accept them for who they are. And too often, they don’t know where to turn, leading to heightened substance abuse cases throughout the community.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to escape this vicious cycle. At No Matter What Recovery, we specialize in mental health treatments for patients who have turned to substance abuse, including for members of disadvantaged groups like the LGBTQ+ community. Our dual diagnosis program simultaneously offers treatments for substance abuse and mental health disorders like the above.
We only work with patients who suffer from both, allowing us to specialize our services where they are most needed.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community can be challenging. Especially if someone doesn’t have the social support needed to get through times of isolation, depression, or anxiety. At No Matter What Recovery, you’ll find professionals ready to help you find your self-worth and get healthy.
Contact us today for a consultation and start your journey to recovery.