The LGBTQ+ community includes over 11 million people living in the United States. Being LGBTQ+ does not mean that a person is suffering from a mental illness, it means that they either identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, or another sexual identity. Due to many factors including, homophobia, transphobia, and societal stigma, members of the LBGTQ+ community are at an increased risk of developing a behavioral health or substance abuse disorder. According to Mental Health of America, nearly 39% of LGBTQ+ individuals have identified that they are suffering from mental illness. Learn more below about some of the more prevalent behavioral health challenges that face the LGBTQ+ community:
While anyone regardless of their sexual or gender identity can experience anxiety in their lifetime, those of the LGBTQ+ community are four times as likely to develop anxiety. For individuals of the LGBTQ+ community, anxiety symptoms can be due to many different factors outside of discovering sexual identity. Oftentimes, anxiety presents itself due to trauma, feeling isolated, and lack of social support. Many LGBTQ+ individuals may experience many if not all of these events at one point in their life. Due to feeling like the “other” in their own communities, social circles, and even families, LGBTQ+ individuals are at a greater risk of developing anxiety at some point in their life. To learn more about anxiety click here.
Much like anxiety, depression runs deep within the LGBTQ+ community. Depression symptoms tend to develop due to feelings of isolation, rejection, and “otherness” developed through trauma and/or discrimination against of the LGBTQ+ community. Many members of the community face a fear of rejection, or past traumas that contribute to them hiding their identity from their loved ones. Factors like these contribute to the feelings of isolation, otherness, and helplessness that increase the risk of depression. Nearly 60% of LGBTQ+ individuals have reported feeling hopeless or sad at some point during their life. Reports say that nearly 40% of transgender persons have attempted to commit suicide at least once in their life. In general, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts and tendencies, due to past traumas and experiences battling depression. To learn more about depression click here.
It is estimated that nearly 30% LGBTQ+ community experience trouble with substance abuse, and substance abuse disorders. Substance abuse is often seen as a “co-occurring” disorder in the LGBTQ+ community, meaning along with substance abuse the person is suffering from another behavioral health issue like anxiety or depression. It is found that many LGBTQ+ individuals begin to use substances as a coping method for their trauma or behavioral health issues. To learn more about substance abuse treatment options click here.
Many LGBTQ+ individuals experience some form of trauma in their lives. Trauma does not always have to be physical, it can come from many different sources including: bullying (verbal and nonverbal), lack of social support or understanding, witnessing another member of the community be harassed and/or harmed, exposed to toxic hateful and unsupported environments (including homophobia and transphobia), and many others. Trauma can lead to developing many different behavioral health disorders including: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, Anxiety, and Substance Abuse. Trauma can be shown through many different ways like lashing out or withdrawing from loved ones.
These behavioral health disorders by no means are the only ones that LGBTQ+ people face. These individuals are also more likely to experience homelessness in their lifetime often due to lack of acceptance. LGBTQ+ individuals are also more likely to see an increased amount of discrimination because of other factors other than sexual or gender identity. Increased discrimination opens these individuals to an increased risk of developing a behavioral health or substance abuse disorder due to trauma. Due to the stigma surrounding the LBGTQ+ community, many find it difficult to get the behavioral and physical health help that they need. To learn more about the boundaries faced by the LGBTQ+ community click here.
Additional Resources and Support: