Mental Illness and Sexuality
Sexuality is a diverse term that is widely used to denote the sexual orientation and/or interests of the individual. In addition sometimes it may also denote gender identification (or perception of the self). Sexuality is a matter of personal preference and choice; however, despite global recognition of the rights and existence of individuals with diverse sexual preferences, a fair chunk of LGBT population still face a lot of hatred and discrimination at work, neighborhood and in schools. For example, approximately 21% LGB employees have reported at least one or more episodes of discriminatory behavior at workplace; whereas approximately 47% transgender complained of workplace discrimination according to a new study reported in Los Angeles Times. Needless to say that this pressure often culminates in mental health issues and problems such as anxiety, depression, stress, conduct disorder and personality disorders (to list a few).
Sexuality and Sexual Preferences
Normal or healthy sexual preferences have long been a topic of extensive debate and discussion among scientists and psychotherapists. However, research has now proved that a wide variety of hormonal, environmental and social factors can also play a vital role in determining the sexuality and sexual preferences and resulting emotional or psychological issues.
Prevalence of Mental Health Issues
According to a new study published in the American Journal of Public Health (1), investigators conducted a study to assess the prevalence of mental health issues in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) population. After extensive analysis of 246 LGBT in the age range of 16 to 20 years, it was identified that about one-third study population reported at least one mental health issue in the past 12 months.
Most frequently reported mental health issues were:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (9%)
- Conduct Disorder (17%)
- Major Depression (15%)
- Lifetime risk of suicide (31%); however only 7% reported a suicidal attempt in the past 6 months
Besides social norms and peer pressure, other factors may also influence mental health such as harassing, bullying at work or at school, low socioeconomic status, physical health (such as higher risk of certain infection and medical problems) and substance abuse.
According to a new study (2), besides above listed health issues LGBT population is also at a higher risk of developing health issues like panic attacks, anxiety, depression, borderline personality disorders, violent outbursts of anger and aggression etc.
How to Manage Mental Health Problems Due to Sexuality?
In the absence of any intervention, mental health issues may affect the quality of life of the affected individual and of the people in their surroundings. There are a number of options that may prove helpful in such situations. For example;
- Speak to a therapist: If you are experiencing psychological or physical stress due to sexuality or sexual orientation, you should speak to a therapist to learn about different therapeutic options. Psychological counseling and advice often helps in improving the capacity to deal with potential stressors in a better fashion.
- Speak to your family and friends: Support and care from family members and friends helps in managing stress and agitation in a feasible way.
- Identify and control your issues: If you are experiencing negative thoughts or emotions, it is highly recommended to identify the cause and seek treatment for your ailments.
- Maintain abstinence from drugs, alcohol: It has been observed that most violent crimes and activities are associated with the use of illicit drugs, alcohol and smoking. Seek help if you are battling addiction of intoxicants.
- Periodic medical and physical examination: Physical and emotional health can be assessed at an earlier stage with the help of periodic medical examinations.
- Mustanski, B. S., Garofalo, R., & Emerson, E. M. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health, 100(12), 2426-2432.
- Sandfort, T. G., Bakker, F., Schellevis, F. G., & Vanwesenbeeck, I. (2006). Sexual orientation and mental and physical health status: Findings from a Dutch population survey. American Journal of Public Health, 96(6), 1119.
- Hatzenbuehler, M. L., Phelan, J. C., & Link, B. G. (2013). Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities. American journal of public health, 103(5), 813-821.