Historically, it was believed that realizing that one is gay, bisexual, or transgender and coming out were the main reasons why individuals in the LGBTQIA community grappled with mental health issues and substance abuse. However, some studies are revealing that a great deal more is making these individuals more vulnerable to struggling with psychological pain and addiction.
It Is More than the Stress of Accepting Oneself as LGBTQIA
In decades past, men and women in the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersexual, Asexual) community not only hid their true selves from their friends, family, and other important people in their lives, but they also went to great lengths to avoid being honest with themselves about who they really are. In fact, countless individuals once ignored this part of themselves entirely and made every effort to live the perceived “normal” life that society seemingly expected them to have. However, individuals in this community are now more accepted in the mainstream and are plagued with far less oppression than individuals historically once endured for the sake of being their authentic selves. On the other hand, despite greater social acceptance and more pronounced messages that encourage self-acceptance, those in the LGBTQIA community are still struggling emotionally and abusing substances at a staggering rate.
Presently, many experts in the field of mental health agree that what happens during one’s formative years can have a powerful impact on how one perceives and interacts with the world around him or her. For individuals in the LGBTQIA community, these formative years can be especially influential with regards to their sexuality and self-acceptance as teens and eventually as adults. When there is a great deal of emotional upheaval during this time, and if any distress and psychological pain are not dealt with appropriately, then there is an increased risk for mental health and substance abuse concerns to arise. The risk for battling these sort of problems also heightens if a person is exposed to unhealthy coping skills and the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol when strategies for effectively handling life’s stressors are being observed and learned.
Additionally, some research points to something referred to as “minority stress” as a possible reason for why LGBTQIA community members battle mental and/or substance use disorders. Minority stress involves thinking and feeling as though one must essentially over-perform or put in more effort to conform to social norms so that some perceived flaw will not be interpreted as stereotypical or due to being part of a minority group. This sort of stress is mainly psychological, and can become so overwhelming that a person’s thoughts can become consumed with worrying if someone else is deducing a behavior or choice as something influenced by being gay or transgender and so on.
“Did she say I was well-dressed because she knows I am gay?”
“Should I not hold my girlfriend’s hand at the mall because people will stare or say something mean?”
These are but a few examples of self-talk that coincide with grappling with minority stress, which can make working, socializing, and otherwise functioning day-to-day especially difficult. Additionally, this form of stress can occur without any actual trigger and, instead, be a person’s inner monologue when one lacks confidence, feels inadequate somehow, or feels threatened in some way. Prolonged inner turmoil such as this can trigger the onset of a mental disorder or lead a person to begin using substances as a means of coping with this sort of “inner bullying.”
Furthermore, some individuals believe that those in the LGBTQIA community struggle with such issues because they are trying to “fit in once they are out” and are not sure of who they are to become once admitting to themselves and the world that they are gay, transgender, questioning, etc. Some have admitted that they lose sight of just being who they are and feel the need to conform to certain roles within the community itself, which can sometimes place them at risk for substantial harm. For example, some gay men in some cities feel as if they should be promiscuous or engage in drug use as a means of being part of the “gay scene.” However, the truth of the matter is that not all gay men engage in many casual relationships or abuse substances. Those who do may experience a decline in their mental health due to being dissatisfied with their quality of life or find that they are now addicted to substances and cannot stop.
Some experts and researchers believe that the rise of mental health and addiction concerns among LGBTQIA community members is a twofold problem that needs to be thwarted. First, with social medial and dating apps sometimes taking the place of face-to-face human interaction, some LGBTQIA community members are isolated in reality. Secondly, it is becoming more obvious that there are a lack of resources available to older individuals who are already living as their true selves, but who are also in need of support from their community. Both of these kinds of issues render many people lonely and disconnected from people who can help them through tougher times in a beneficial way. Additionally, these concerns can also bring on symptoms synonymous with mental illnesses or make substance abuse an appealing, misguided distraction.
Inter-community Support and Effective Services Can Bring Change
Currently, LGBTQIA community members have higher suicide rates, are more likely to grapple with depression, frequently battle severe addictions, and are at an increased risk for certain physical health problems because of deteriorating mental health and the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol. Given these facts, and the contributing factors that raise rates of mental illness and substance abuse within this community, there is a strong need for more support, early intervention, and effective services that can help LGBTQIA persons live happier, healthier lives. By teaching individuals of all ages healthy skills for coping, positive ways of living, and methods for accessing help when it is needed, it is possible that the LGBTQIA community can see a decrease in the number of those suffering from mental health issues and addiction.
Starlite Recovery Center, Texas’s premier addiction and co-occurring disorder treatment center, is pleased to offer The Freedom Addiction Program for LGBTQIA community members who are suffering from chemical dependency and secondary mental health disorders. Within this invaluable rehab program, individuals can receive the life-saving and life-changing care they need in an atmosphere that is supportive, nonjudgmental, and nurturing. Group therapy opportunities, peer support, 12-Step meetings, individual therapy sessions, and family therapy round out the treatment available and are among the interventions that can help individuals break free from their addictions and manage their emotional pain effectively. Drug and alcohol addiction treatment for LGBTQIA community at Starlite Recovery Center provides a healthier tomorrow today.