Mental Health Issues Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender People
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
According to the National Institute on Mental Health, an estimated 26% of adults 18 and older, or 1 in 4 Americans, experience a mental health issue in a given year.1 Just like everyone else, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) people also experience mental health issue.
First and foremost, however, we must remember that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is not a mental illnss in and of itself. Just because someone is GLBT doesn’t automatically mean that they will experience a mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association: “Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social and vocational capabilities. Further, the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations.” 2 However, GLBT people may face unique risks to their mental health and well-being, which mental health providers should be aware of.
Most research suggests that GLBT people are likely to be at higher risk for depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.3-5 One study found that GLB groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder, such as those related to mood, anxiety, or substance use, in their lifetime.4 In a national study comparing GLB and heterosexual groups, researchers found that gay and bisexual men were more likely to report major depression and panic disorder in the previous twelve month period. Lesbian and bisexual women were more than three times as likely to have experienced generalized anxiety disorder.5
The reason for these disparities is most likely related to the societal stigma and resulting prejudice and discrimination that GLBT face on a regular basis, from society at large, but also from family members, peers, co-workers and classmates.
In terms of more serious mental illnesses, such as those that are long-term and require hospitalization or in-patient care, unfortunately we don’t know very much. However, of the approximately 18 million people with serious mental illness, a reasonable estimate suggests that about 720,000 are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.6
In one of the few studies of serious or major mental illness among GLBT people, researchers found that LGB men were less likely to report psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia, but more likely to report mood disorders, such as depression and bi-polar disorders. They found no differences between GLBT and heterosexual women.7
A note on terminology: The term “GLBT” is commonly used as shorthand for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community. It is important to note that while these groups may share some similarities, they are by no means identical in terms of their mental health issues, concerns, or needs.While the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual (and heterosexual) refer to someone’s sexual orientation, transgender is a term related to gender identity, or someone’s sense of being a man or woman, boy or girl. Transgender people are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, and bisexual. The term gay typically refers to a man who is romantically and emotionally attracted to other men. Lesbian (or gay woman) refers to a woman who is romantically and emotionally attracted to other women. Bisexual refers to someone who is romantically and emotionally attracted to men and women. Being bisexual does not necessarily mean someone is involved in multiple relationships at once. Some men and women may engage in same-sex behavior yet still identify as heterosexual, and some lesbian or gay people may have sexual relationships with people of the other sex. It is important not to make assumptions or judge people when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity. Finally, GLBT people are just as diverse as everyone else! We are old, young, rich, poor, parents, children, friends, co-workers, Latino, African American, and on and on. Just like people with mental illness, GLBT people are everywhere and in every community!
by Wendy B. Bostwick, PhD, MPH
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
CSAT (2001) state that homophobia and heterosexism can affect GLBT people by causing internalized homophobia, shame, and a negative self-concept. Some GLBT individuals learn to devalue themselves and value only heterosexual persons instead. The negative effects of heterosexism include the following:
• Self-blame for the victimization one has suffered
• Negative self-concept as a result of negative messages about homosexuality
• Anger directed inward resulting in destructive patterns such as substance abuse
• Victim mentality or feelings of inadequacy, hopelessness, and despair that interfere with leading a fulfilling life
• Self-victimization that may hinder emotional growth and development.
Beatty et al. (1999) state that a sexual minority status may cause GLBT individuals to face prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory behaviors, hatred, and verbal, emotional, or physical abuse. This discrimination can lead to loss of job and residence and rejection by family and peers. The result of living this type of existence is often immeasurable psychological stress that leads to escape with alcohol and other drugs or causes depression,, among other maladaptie behaviors such as overworking at the expense of personal relationships.
(Substance Abuse Counseling: Theory and Practice, 4/e for Laureate Education, 4th Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions pp. 315 – 316).
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
‘Coming out’ as gay, lesbian or bisexual may be good for your health, particularly when parental support is involved.
A comprehensive new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher Emily Rothman shows that two-thirds of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in a representative Massachusetts sample reported receiving positive support from their parents after coming out to them.
Xiomara A. Sosa, XAS Founder
Gay affirmative psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy for gay and lesbian clients which encourages them to accept their sexual orientation, and does not attempt to change them to heterosexual, or to eliminate or diminish same-sex desires and behaviors. The American Psychological Association (APA) offers guidelines and materials for gay affirmative psychotherapy. Affirmative psychotherapy states that homosexuality or bisexuality is not a mental illness. In fact, embracing and affirming gay identity can be a key component to recovery from other mental illnesses or substance abuse. There are a number of individuals for whom neither gay-affirmative therapy nor conversion therapy might be appropriate, however. Clients whose religious beliefs teach against homosexual behavior may require some other method of integration of their conflicting religious and sexual selves.
Gay Affirmative Therapy (GAT) takes the position that there is nothing inherently wrong with being gay or lesbian.What’s wrong is what is done to gay men and lesbians by a homophobic, homo-ignorant society and heterosexist therapy. Living in a shame-based culture creates a variety of behavioral and psychological disorders. GAT focuses on repairing the harm done to these clients, helping them move from shame to pride.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Concerns Office (LGBTCO) advances psychology as a means of improving the health and well-being of LGBT people, of increasing understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation as aspects of human diversity, and of reducing stigma, prejudice, discrimination, and violence toward LGBT people.
Do You Crave Spontaneous Happiness?
It’s natural to have emotional ups and downs. What’s not natural – yet all too common in the modern world – is to feel persistently sad or anxious for no obvious reason. My new website, SpontaneousHappiness.com, helps members find and sustain the emotional balance that’s needed to navigate and enjoy life in this complex, fast-paced world. In just eight weeks you will:
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Weekly checklists, personalized tips, in-depth articles, and videos provide a variety of ways to keep you engaged and encouraged. In addition, we have tools to track your mood, breathing, physical fitness and other aspects of your personal journey through the plan.Visit today to learn more about Spontaneous Happiness – I think you will find it a useful tool for achieving balance in the hectic world we live in today.
Copyright © 2011 Weil Lifestyle, LLC
Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation
Xiomara A. Sosa
The Habits of Happy People
Americans feel a certain pressure to be happy. How could we not when the pursuit of happiness is enshrined in the Constitution? The problem for many of us, though, given this mandate, is that true happiness always seems to be just beyond the rainbow: “When I have X (a spouse, a child, a job, a house, a car)I’ll be happy.” But academic experts in this burgeoning field say chasing happiness doesn’t work. Happiness is more of an attitude. And the happier you are, the likelier you are to be successful in all spheres of life.
What makes us happy?
Let’s get money out of the way first. It does have an influence. David Myers, a professor of psychology at Hope College and author of The Pursuit of Happiness: Who is Happy, and Why? says, “There is some correlation [between money and happiness], but it tapers off once you reach a middle income standard of living that affords some control over your life circumstances.” In other words, as soon as we have enough money to take care of our basic needs such as food, clothing and housing, the amount of money we have no longer affects our happiness levels.
“We’re twice as rich as we were 50 years ago, but we’re not happier at all,” he continues. That said, a 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center showed half of the wealthiest respondents described themselves as “very happy” compared to 30 percent of those with family incomes of less than $30,000 a year.
The most important influencer of happiness, Myers says, is other people. “We’re social animals,” he says. “We come with a deep need to belong. So people who have close, supportive, intimate relationships with others are more likely to report themselves as really happy people.”
|12 tips for a happier lifeHappy people tend to pay attention to the things they can control and not worry about the rest. Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, shares the following tips about how to become happier.|
|1 Count your blessings. Be aware of all the good things in your life and express gratitude for what you have.2 Cultivate optimism. Make an effort to see the upside of a situation and surround yourself with positive people.
3 Avoid social comparison. This is a tough one in our aspirational culture, but Lyubomirsky says it’s well worth cutting down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself to others.
4 Practice acts of kindness toward friends and strangers.
5 Nurture your relationships. Don’t take your friends and family for granted.
6 Do more activities that really engage you. This increases what psychologists call the “flow” state where you’re totally absorbed in what you’re doing.
|7 Savor life’s joys. Go over them either by writing them down or thinking and talking about them.8 Commit to your goals. Pick at least one significant goal and devote time and effort to pursuing it.
9 Develop coping strategies. Practice ways to get through or get over stress or trauma.
10 Learn to forgive. Letting go of old hurts and resentments frees your mind and heart.
11 Practice religion or spirituality. Research shows people who do so are happier.
12 Take care of your body. Exercise, meditation and laughing all count
Top 10 Barriers To Self-growth – Xiomara A. Sosa
1 ) Fear: Sounds like a no-brainer that fear would be number one on the list but many people don’t experience it that way. They may rationalize their reluctance to make changes by interpreting their excuses as valid reasons. It is often only through taking an honest personal inventory or thorough self-examination that a person realizes that his fears have been driving him. 2 ) Denial: Others may have suggested that you need to change (maybe you’re too angry or stubborn) but you are not hearing it. You prefer living in your own world of fiction despite what people close to you (and even, perhaps the little voice inside your head) have said. Personal growth will not be possible if you think it is unnecessary for you. 3 ) Pride: There’s nothing wrong with being proud, as in being proud of your accomplishments. However when someone has an inordinate opinion of his own importance and carries a sense of superiority over others, it will prevent him/her from keeping an open mind about change and growth. Pride sometimes prevents people from being willing to admit they made a mistake, thereby learning from the experience. 4 ) Defensiveness: Being overly defensive is a signal to others of your insecurity. A person who is excessively concerned with guarding himself against real or imagined criticism is not able to grow. His defensiveness closes him down and he becomes a prisoner. 5 ) Not taking responsibility: Repeatedly blaming others or circumstances for what happens in your life is a way of avoiding your own responsibility. To experience self-growth you have to be ready to take the heat. Blaming others can create the conflict you need to deflect the focus away from you and onto someone else. 6 ) Lack of self-discipline: If you have lofty ideas about the things you would like to achieve and the person you would like to become but lack the self-discipline to accomplish those things, you will always be disappointed in yourself. There is no reaching the top if you are not willing to make the climb. 7 ) Lack of motivation: It is easy to say that you would like to do something (for example: exercise, learn a language or get better at being in a relationship) but until you understand why you want to do something you will likely not accomplish it. Being truly motivated creates a powerful force or drive that can propel you to achieve what you want. Many people just think they should want something and create a fantasy around the thought. Try answering this: What do you want that you really cannot live without? (See my Newsletter on Motivation) 8 ) Lack of goals: It is the old story of: “If you don’t know where you are going, how are you going to get there?” To achieve growth you need to know what you want and map out a course to get it. Many people resist creating and writing down goals often because they have simply not gotten into the habit. Start small and build your goal setting skills. 9 ) Negative/Pessimistic attitude: This is not the same as having healthy skepticism. Having a negative/pessimistic attitude creates an internal state where few, if any, options exist. Expectations of only the worst sort of outcomes cloud the mind and hamper the possibilities of growth. The spirit is drained of inspiration and the person is stuck. (See my article on Attitude). 10 ) Lack of support: If you surround yourself with negative/pessimistic people you are unlikely to achieve personal growth. If you do not have a good support system you should try to develop one. It is hard to go it alone. To achieve good and great things in your life you need the support of good and great people.
Dr. Stan Hyman
A Secret to Happiness: Einstein
Xiomara A. Sosa
It seems like an increasing phenomenon that a number of individuals are finding themselves with a psychic emptiness at some point in life. There is some kind of dissatisfaction, an uncertainty as to why they feel so unhappy and what will help them feel more complete. This runs rampant with people who have acquired some kind of success in life and find their minds saying, now what?
Some people call this a mid-life crisis, but it can happen at all different times of life. What’s missing?
Albert Einstein once said:
“Try not to become a man of success but rather a man of value.”
Today we’re driving our kids more than ever to be “successful.” But what does this really mean? Somewhere along the line we’ve become confused as a culture and lost sight of what really matters. The test is simple, what makes us feel good? Not in a hedonistic way, but more in line with the Greek term eudaimonia. This can be translated more as a meaningful happiness.
So what’s missing? An understanding of personal values. The key question is: What do you believe is important in life? Is it helping other people, being honest, working hard, being compassionate, spending time with family or people in your community, or maybe being mindful?
This isn’t just a cursory question, it’s one to take seriously and then take an inventory of your life seeing where it lives and where it’s missing.
What would your life look like if you were actually living in accordance with what you valued? Visualize this and let it be your guide toward a happier life.
Sometimes life can truly be that simple.
Sometimes you’re living your values and not even taking a moment to be mindful of it. Think about where in your day to day you are actually living in the way you think is most important.
Right now, stop what you’re doing and take a minute to look forward toward the rest of the day. Where are you living your values? Where is an opportunity to stop in line with them more?
Take this moment to live as if it mattered.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Einstein’s formula photo available from Shutterstock