Common Mental Health Issues the LGBTQ+ Community Faces
By Space Coast Daily // November 13, 2021
The LGBTQ+ community is a group that has had more than its fair share of mental health struggles. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) estimates that between 15 and 20 percent of the U.S. population will experience mental illness in any given year, but among the LGBTQ+ community, this number jumps to 40 percent.
This percentage includes depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and many others, which can be life-threatening if left untreated. However, there are resources available for those struggling with these issues within the LGBTQ+ community, as well as outside support groups they can turn to for help when needed – all without fear of judgment or discrimination from their peers.
Dealing with Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are some of the most common issues faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Mental health struggles that include depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorder, or borderline personality disorder can be life-threatening or even fatal if not treated.
Depression is a mental health issue that can cause one to feel persistently sad or hopeless for an extended period of time. Those who have been diagnosed with depression oftentimes experience problems concentrating, sleeping and eating properly, social withdrawal from normal activities, and other changes in their daily life routine.
While anyone can experience depression, the rates of depression among the LGBTQ+ community are much higher than those in heterosexual relationships – nearly 1 in 3 people within this group will end up struggling with severe levels of depression at some point.
A person dealing with depression may have feelings of worthlessness or guilt, an inability to enjoy things they used to find enjoyable and persistent thoughts about death.
Anxiety disorders are another common mental health issue among the LGBTQ+ community. The number of people struggling with an anxiety disorder multiplies when compared to the general population – between 20-30 percent of individuals in this group deal with some type of anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Anxiety can be experienced as extreme worry or fear that something bad will occur soon or even as far-fetched as feeling like you’re dying.
Other symptoms often include physical ones, including skipping out on events due to overwhelming feelings of dread, excessive sweating, nausea, shakes/trembles, and more for no apparent reason.
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community deal with these types of anxiety disorders at least once in their lifetime simply due to the stress surrounding coming out or dealing with intolerance for their sexuality.
Coping with Discrimination and Abuse
The LGBTQ+ community has had to deal with discrimination over the course of history, but after the Stonewall Riots of 1969, where members of this group demanded equal rights, their fight is not yet over. Some are struggling with mental health issues like anxiety and depression simply due to their struggles surrounding the acceptance of who they are as a person. The rates of suicide among that community are also higher than those in heterosexual relationships.
Many people within this group that have been discriminated against or abused throughout their lives end up developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point during their lifetime.
The symptoms associated with PTSD can affect someone’s daily life by causing frequent nightmares, intrusive thoughts about the traumatic event, and avoidance behaviors to prevent someone from thinking or talking about what happened. Because this group of people has often faced verbal or physical abuse in their lifetime, many end up struggling with PTSD at some point – whether they realized it during the time the trauma occurred or not.
Resources and Treatment
The good news is that all of these issues can be treated through therapy, medications, and social support like any other mental health issue. With proper treatment, those struggling can lead normal lives without fear of judgment or discrimination from their peers.
That said, it’s important to note that all individuals and their treatment plans should be handled on a case-by-case basis to determine the best plan of action for treating mental health issues.
LGBTQ+ community members that are struggling with depression or anxiety can benefit from treatment options such as group therapy, individual counseling, and medication management. At any point, if these treatments aren’t working for an individual, they can meet with a psychiatrist who may offer more insight on what other medications might work for this particular person going forward.
Just remember not all therapy is created equal. Specific LGBT counseling might be useful for those that need someone sympathetic to what they’re going through.
As someone living within the LGBTQ+ community struggling with depression or anxiety, you may feel alone or even ashamed of your feelings due to feeling like you don’t ‘fit in’ – but know that you’re not alone. There are many resources available to help you deal with these issues without fear of judgment or discrimination from your peers.
For more information on mental health issues specific to the LGBTQ+ community, check out GLADD’s full list of resources right here. You can also contact them directly at their website or by phone at 1-888-843-4564 if you need someone to talk to in a time of crisis.
What you can do
If you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community and think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms associated with depression and anxiety disorders, call your doctor immediately to find out how to get help. You should also consider seeking support groups specifically for members of that group so that they can all share their experiences together, providing others an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and cope more positively forward. For those who may be struggling with PTSD due to discrimination or abuse they’ve faced in their lifetime, speak with your doctor about treatment options and find a support group specifically for people who are struggling with PTSD.
Significant changes in life can also cause someone to experience temporary anxiety or depression, so those who recently moved or started a new job may want to speak with their therapist about ways they can better cope and adapt to these changes. Those who have been diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) should also consider adding exercise to their daily routine as it has been proven to help reduce the effects of stress.
As mentioned before, no two people are alike – that goes for treatment options as well. If your current plan of action isn’t working out for you, don’t be afraid to discuss additional options with your psychiatrist. While medication may not always be necessary, it can still be a helpful tool in treating many mental health issues going forward.