The LGBTQIA+ Community, Mental Health, and Addiction

A lot of progress has been made by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The acronym LGBTQIA+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, and others. It provides an umbrella term for anyone who doesn’t feel they fit under previous rigid definitions of sexual and gender identities.  

Members of this group enjoy more acceptance now than in previous generations. However, mental health and addiction issues with the LGBTQIA+ community still keep them on uneven footing compared to their heterosexual counterparts. These issues often stem from difficulty accepting who they are and conflict with loved ones over their identification. This community also suffers more often from employment discrimination, social stigma, and the risk of violence committed against them.

All of these issues combine in a perfect storm that makes mental health and addiction issues with the LGBTQIA+ community a real and troubling issue.

Population Numbers for LGBTQIA+

In 2017, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) published a study that identified numbers of LGBTQIA+ within the U.S. population. It found the following:

  • Approximately 9 million people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender
  • Approximately 19 million people report having engaged in sexual activity with the same sex
  • Approximately 25 million people experience at least some degree of sexual attraction to the same sex

Disparities Related to Mental Health and LGBTQIA+ Community

The APA report showcased elevated numbers related to mental health issues within the LGBTQIA+ community. The number of members of this group that experience a mental health disorder is more than twice that of heterosexuals. They also access mental health services at a higher rate than others. Those in the LGBTQIA+ population are more than 2.5 times more likely to develop anxiety and depression. 

The rate of attempting suicide is two to four times higher for LGBTQIA+ youth. Transgender youth are more than twice as likely to deal with depressive symptoms, contemplate, and attempt suicide than any of their counterparts. Even within the community, disparity arises. White transgender people are less likely to attempt suicide than their minority counterparts. An eye-opening 40% of transgender adults have turned to suicide attempts in their lifetime. This dwarfs the number of the general population, which stands at 5%. 

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMH) reports that people who identify as transgender experience mental illness almost four times as often as cisgender individuals. Cisgender defines people whose gender identity matches that of their birth gender. 

Substance Abuse Takes a Toll in the LGBTQIA+ Sector

LGBTQIA+ members prove more than 2.5 times as likely to experience substance misuse than members of the heterosexual community. Lesbian and bisexual women engage in heavy drinking more than double as often. 

The NAMH states that transgender individuals develop substance use disorders at almost four times the rate of cisgender people. LGBTQIA+ community members of high school age use illegal drugs more often than heterosexuals in the same age group.  

The Need to Stop Suffering in Silence

People who find themselves dealing with mental health and addiction issues with the LGBTQIA+ community often do not know where to turn.

They may feel that life has proved difficult enough just to learn to accept their personal identity. Often these individuals find their self-acceptance complicated by discrimination coming from family, members of the community, and religious-based organizations. 

The LGBTQIA+ community has built itself up in terms of acceptance over the generations. This fact doesn’t negate how its members still often face the stressors of mental health diagnoses and substance abuse disorders. When these two situations are in play, seeking professional help can offer remedies and peace of mind. 

Steps to Take to Find Treatment

If a person suspects they need to address a mental health problem or a possible drug or alcohol addiction, they have concretes steps they can take. 

  • Make an appointment with a physician. Be honest about any symptoms experienced and concerns that need to be addressed.
  • Seek a referral to a licensed counselor who can diagnose any mental health disorders. 
  • Look for a treatment program that offers options related to their needs. Many facilities offer plans that address recovery for addiction alongside mental health management. 
  • Ask intake employees at treatment programs under consideration if they are LGBTQIA+ friendly. 
  • Talk to others who experience mental health and addiction issues in the LGBTQIA+ community. They may have ideas and references that can come in handy.
  • Once any formal, residential or similar type program is completed, make sure to have follow-up plans to continue recovery.
  • Investigate options for treatment payment, including insurance coverage and other opportunities.
  • Be prepared to commit long-term to a program to heal yourself.

Keep in mind that anyone in the LGBTQIA+ community can learn to embrace recovery and manage their mental health. Doing so allows them to not only reveal their true, best selves but to celebrate them. Diversity makes life more interesting. 

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment in California

If you are a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and need help treating addiction and any accompanying mental health issues, we can help. Our professional program is tailored to your needs, including things like detox, residential treatment, EMDR, and holistic options. 
Contact our Palm Springs location here to talk about how we can help you.


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