By Clarissa Cortese


The LGBTQ+ community has always faced a wide range of discrimination, some is more evident, such as bullying or violent acts, some is much subtler, such as inadequate health care. The combination of discrimination with the intrinsic and emotional issues we must deal with creates for worrying levels of anxiety in the LGBTQ+ community.

THE STATISTICS

According to Stonewall’s 2018 ‘LGBT in Britain – Health Report’, mental health quality in the community is alarming.

Over the past year, 52% of LGBTQ+ people have experienced depression and 13% of people aged 18-24 have tried to kill themselves. 5% of LGBTQ+ people were forced to access services with the aim of changing their sexual orientation and 14% avoided access to health care because they feared discrimination.

12% of people had experienced an eating disorder in the last year, and about 40% of the  community felt ‘disgusted’ by their body image. 61% of LGBTQ+ people experience anxiety during the past year.

SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) has a greater impact on the LGBTQ+ community than on heterosexual and cisgender individuals, because of the cultural and social environment in which they grow up, which often forces them to face prejudices or even physical, psychological and verbal abuse. Moreover, the LGBTQ+ community members have far fewer positive models of healthy social and romantic relationships.

Social Anxiety Disorder tends to appear during adolescence, a period in which a person’s identity develops. In fact, teenagers internalise the negative messages coming from outside and imternalising them.

CAUSES OF ANXIETY

What are the causes of these concerning statistics in relation to anxiety in the LGBTQ+ community?

There is no doubt that external factors such as discrimination, bullying and violence are the main causes but they are not the only ones. Internalised homophobia, self-hatred and other forms of insecurity are also at the root of anxiety in the community.

Coming out can also be a huge source of anxiety. If some individuals experience that moment in their lives as liberating and exciting, but for many others it is very painful and distressing. Furthermore, coming out is not something you have to deal with just once in your life, but over and over again, with a wide range of people who are likely to have very different reactions.

Fear of rejection and pain if this really happens are the very well known major causes of anxiety for LGBTQ+  people.

DISCRIMINATION IN THE COMMUNITY

Some members of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly transgender and bisexual, experience discrimination even in their own community which can undermine their sense of safety and belonging, increasing the chances of developing an anxiety or depression disorder.

People with HIV are more likely to face anxiety disorders, as their condition is still strongly stigmatised. Relationships, both affective and sexual, can also become a source of stress.

ANXIETY TREATMENTS

It is extremely sad to learn that as many as 25% of LGBTQ+ people have been asked inappropriate questions from healthcare professionals.The same percentage of people have experienced discriminatory remarks or acts by health professionals. 5% of the LGBTQ+ community has even been forced when treated to modify their sexuality or gender identity.

Mental health care professionals should not ignore LGBTQ+ community issues, nor can they behave in a discriminatory manner of any kind, as this totally undermines the effectiveness of care. However difficult it may be to ask for help, contacting an anxiety specialist may be the best solution.

A trained person can help you deal with important issues such as:

  • Acceptance of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Anxiety related to coming out
  • Fear and management of people’s reactions
  • Emotions and fears related to the transition
  • Low self-esteem
  • Hostility
  • Emotional trauma related to bullying and discrimination
  • Social anxiety

It is not always easy to find the right specialist to turn to, so it is important to choose someone who is openly working on issues related to the LGBTQ+ community, although hopefully that this distinction will soon become superfluous.

Anxiety is a feeling that affects everyone, more or less strongly, but unfortunately, it seems to be an even worse problem in the LGBTQ+ community.


This article originally appeared at www.clarissacortese.com

Find out help, support and information at www.outlife.org.uk/Pages/Category/depression


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