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LGBT Depression: Finding the Right Therapist

Over the last decade, the LGBT community has continuously challenged the status quo, demanding equal rights. Drawing attention to some of the problems that LGBT people are currently dealing with. From stigma and bullying to prejudice and discrimination, members of the LGBT community are at risk of developing all sorts of emotional and behavioral problems. Individuals who have a more complex sexual orientation (like lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender orientations) struggle with various issues related to their life choices. As a result, topics like “LGBT depression” have caught the attention of researchers and healthcare professionals. They are constantly looking to develop and implement personalized mental health services.

Depression in the LGBT Community

Depression, among other mental health conditions (like anxiety disorder), seems to be a prevalent problem in the LGBT community with more and more LGBT people being diagnosed with depression. The extent to which mental illness affects this vulnerable group varies because of numerous factors.

LGBT Teens

In theory, adolescence should be a period of self-exploration and self-growth. Unfortunately, LGBT teens are often under a lot of stress at home and at school.

A recent paper, published in Mental Health in Family Medicine, revealed that bullying is one of the most significant problems that LGBT teens are dealing with. The young members of this vulnerable group tend to experience severe stress, anxiety, and depression.

Young Adults

Many First World countries have gone through significant social and cultural changes. Nevertheless, young adults in the LGBT community continue to face numerous obstacles.

A study published in The Journal of Women’s Health, identified several factors that may contribute to the significantly high rates of depression among members of the LGBT community. It appears that discrimination, lack of social support, and exclusion from healthcare are the main reasons why LGBT depression is on the rise.

LGBT Older Adults

When it comes to LGBT depression and mental health, older adults are one of the least studied groups. We know little about how various social and cultural factors impact the mental health of this subgroup of the LGBT community.

One study published in The Gerontologists, emphasizes the need for optimal engagement in health care as a critical strategy for preventing and treating depression in LGBT older adults. Sadly, the data presented in this study suggests that many LGBT older adults fail to access proper treatment.

Sexual Identity

Sexual identity is a broad concept that encompasses our views and preferences in terms of romantic and sexual partners. As you can probably imagine, there are a lot of misconceptions and heated arguments around this topic.

One of the biggest problems is that we often tend to confuse sexual identity with gender identity. What many people fail to understand is that human sexuality is a “fluid” concept. Everybody has their preferences when it comes to love, sex, and romantic relationships and everybody should be free to pursue them as long as their actions are consensual and legal.

Acceptance by the General Population

Even in modern views of society, the general population tends to lack a certain “understanding” of the needs of other people. This is especially true as far as sexual orientation is concerned. Let’s take a look at how this affects the LGBT community.

Stigma

Stigma continues to be a major issue for members of the LGBT community. LGBT people are stigmatized by family members, peers, coworkers, employers, or the general population.

The negative attitude towards the LGBT community stems from a general lack of understanding and empathy. On top of that, some people tend to exercise a rigid thinking style which prompts them to reject anyone or anything that doesn’t fall under their definition of “normal.”

Prejudice and Discrimination

Because of prejudice and discrimination, members of the LGBT community can lose job opportunities or face exclusion from mental health services. These consequences can result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

Bullying

For LGBT teens and young adults, bullying represents one of the major issues causing mental health problems and reduced quality of life. Teachers and school counselors should, therefore, be the first to react in order to prevent the situation from escalating into something worse.

LGBT Community

Minority Stress Amongst LGBT Individuals

Sadly, we live in a world that isn’t too friendly and welcoming with minorities. Every day, people of different races, ethnic backgrounds, or sexual orientations face prejudice and discrimination.

Minority stress is often the result of social stigma, bullying, abuse, harassment, denial of civil rights, exclusion from healthcare, social and family rejection and other factors that can affect the overall quality of life of these people.

LGBT Statistics

Here are some important statistics about LGBT depression.

Anxiety and Depression

According to recent data from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are three times more likely to experience problems like depression and anxiety. You can understand why many experts consider the LGBT community a vulnerable group.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

We know for a fact that harassment, abuse, and bullying can have a profoundly negative impact on a person’s overall mental health and well-being.

According to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health, the risk of PTSD among LGBT individuals is 1.6 to 3.9 times higher compared to heterosexuals.

Substance Abuse

The National Alliance on Mental Illness also discovered that nearly 30% of all LGBT individuals abuse substances, while approximately 25% abuse alcohol. In short, alcohol and substance abuse seems to be a prevalent problem among people in the LGBT community.

Suicide

Suicide has been, and continues to be, a growing issue. The risk is especially high among teens and young adults.

Because depression affects this vulnerable group to a greater extent, members of the LGBT community are four times more likely to commit suicide.

LGBT Depression

LGBT depression is a serious issue that needs attention. There is a clear need for qualified mental health practitioners to deal with this issue.

The Need for Mental Health Care

The odds seem to be against LGBT individuals because of the significantly high risks for various mental health problems and the relatively low access to quality mental health care.

However, there seems to be a shift in mindset. More and more studies and programs, geared towards addressing health problems in the LGBT community have become available. Researchers and clinicians are also slowly beginning to realize the importance of quality mental health services for this group.

Mental Health Services

Considering that LGBT depression and other mood disorders can lead to a severe decrease in quality of life, getting professional help should be a top priority.

It is understandable that you might be reluctant to see a therapist or counselor. Not everyone understands the problems that LGBT individuals are facing these days. However, you should bear in mind that issues like depression or anxiety can eventually lead to devastating consequences.

Find the Right Therapist

If you’re part of the LGBT community and wish to consult a mental health professional, remember to look for someone who is familiar with the problems that your community is facing.

Before you schedule an appointment remember to ask your potential future counselor or therapist if he/she has worked with LGBT individuals before. Alternatively, you can ask someone from the LGBT community to recommend a mental health professional.

LGBT depression and other related disorders represent a major concern for healthcare professionals. Luckily, they are slowly beginning to understand the magnitude of the emotional and social problems these people are dealing with.

References

  1. N. L. Beckerman, “LGBT Teens and Bullying: What Every Social Worker Should Know,” Mental Health in Family Medicine, vol. 13, pp. 486-494, 2017.
  2. L. S. Steele, A. Daley, D. Curling, M. F. Gibson, D. C. Green, C. C. Williams and L. E. Ross, “LGBT Identity, Untreated Depression, and Unmet Need for Mental Health Services by Sexual Minority Women and Trans-Identified People,” Journal of Women’s Health, vol. 26, no. 2, 2017.
  3. C. Shiu, H.-J. Kim and K. Fredriksen-Goldsen, “Health Care Engagement Among LGBT Older Adults: The Role of Depression Diagnosis and Symptomatology,” The Gerontologist, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 105-114, 2017.
  4. B. Brenner, “Understanding Anxiety and Depression for LGBTQ People,” Anxiety and Depression Association of America, [Online]. Available: https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/understanding-anxiety-and-depression-lgbtq.
  5. “LGBTQ,” NAMI, [Online]. Available: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ.
  6. A. L. Roberts, M. Rosario, H. L. Corliss, K. C. Koenen and B. Austin, “Elevated Risk of Posttraumatic Stress in Sexual Minority Youths: Mediation by Childhood Abuse and Gender Nonconformity,” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 102, no. 8, pp. 1587-1593, 2011.
  7. “Mental Health in the LGBT Community,” MentalHelp.net, [Online]. Available: https://www.mentalhelp.net/mental-health-in-the-lgbt-community/.
About The Author Alexander Draghici
 

I’m a licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT practitioner and co-founder at psycheguide.com. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common mental issues – anxiety and depression. When I’m not busy crafting content or working one-on-one with my clients, I enjoy going to the gym, practicing on my guitar, or playing airsoft. I've also been struggling with anxiety for most of my teenage years, but now I can proudly say that I've finally managed to regain control of my life.