Reviewed by Dara Gasior, PsyD
Director of Assessment and Training for High Focus Centers
Research indicates that individuals who identify as LGBTQ have a greater risk for mental health struggles. This is likely due to a variety of factors, such as discrimination, rejection, and the stress of the coming out process. It’s important to be aware of common mental health issues that LGBTQ people may experience so you can identify any struggles in yourself or a loved one.
Members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to live through traumatic events like bullying, discrimination, harrassment, and even hate crimes. According to data from the FBI, 16.7% of hate crime victims were targeted due to sexual orientation. Additionally, LGBTQ teens are more than twice as likely to be bullied at school, including physical assault and verbal harassment.
All of these factors increase the risk of trauma-related conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). One population-based study found that adolescents who identify as LGBTQ had a 1.6 to 3.9 times greater risk of PTSD than heterosexual youth.
Suicide Risk in LGBTQ Populations
LGBTQ adults have double the risk of suicide attempts, and the risk of suicide is even greater in LGBTQ teens and young adults. The 2020 survey from The Trevor Project found that shockingly, 40% of LGB youth seriously considered suicide in the past year.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). If it is an emergency situation, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital for emergency care.
Although many past studies on substance abuse did not ask about sexual orientation, the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found higher rates of substance abuse among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults compared to heterosexual adults. Specifically:
- 9% of LGB adults reported opioid abuse
- 6% reported marijuana use
- 4% had an alcohol use disorder (alcoholism)
These rates were all higher than rates in heterosexual individuals.
Substance use disorders can have many potential causes, including trauma and underlying mental health conditions. Since LGBTQ individuals are at greater risk of living through traumatic experiences and/or developing a mental health disorder, it makes sense that they are also at increased risk of substance abuse.
Depression can take many different forms, from major depressive disorder (MDD) to persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia). The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline gathered some statistics about LGBTQ mental health that reveal the extent to which this population struggles with depression:
- Transgender youth have four times the risk of depression
- 28% of LGBTQ youth reported feeling depressed most of the time during the previous 30 days
- 60% of LGBQ youth reported stopping some of their usual activities due to hopelessness or sadness
Depression can severely impact quality of life and increase suicide risk. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that an estimated 60% of people who die by suicide have an underlying mood disorder such as major depressive disorder or dysthymia. Therefore, it’s important to seek effective mental health treatment for depression.
Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have grave physical consequences. Unfortunately, research reveals that LGBTQ individuals are at increased risk of these disorders. Consider these statistics reported by the National Eating Disorders Association:
- Transgender individuals have higher rates of eating disorders
- Approximately 42% of men with eating disorders identify as gay
- Lesbian, bisexual, and mostly heterosexual females are twice as likely to struggle with binge eating behavior
Eating disorders can be devastating, but there are effective treatments. Disordered eating can also be driven by an underlying mental health condition, and recovery is often more difficult for people with untreated mental health disorders.
High Focus Centers now offers a disordered eating treatment track as part of our mental health programming.
How to Get Help for Mental Health Issues
Contact High Focus Centers to take the first step towards recovery. We have outpatient programming in New Jersey and we are also offering our services through telehealth. Reach out to our admissions team to have a conversation about how we might be able to help you overcome mental health issues.