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by Brad Brenner, PhD
anxiety depression and lgbtq

If you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) and you struggle with anxiety or depression, let’s start by putting things into context. By that I mean let’s think through powerful life experiences that fundamentally impact your sense of well-being.

Anxiety and Depression for Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals, and Transgender People

Somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgender people deal with anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. That rate is 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than that of their straight or gender-conforming counterparts.

It’s a strikingly high number, and it raises a lot of questions. While the entire answer is undoubtedly complex as to why you or your LGBTQ loved ones are more apt to struggle with anxiety or depression, here’s where context is key to understanding it for yourself.

It’s About Context

If you’re LGBTQ I’d wager a bet that you’re really good at reading a situation to determine how much you can safely be yourself. This skill, while adaptive, comes at a cost because it was developed in response to being subjected to high levels of persistent prejudice and discrimination.

For example, just ask any teenager who’s attracted to people of the same sex (or think back to your own experiences) and you’ll hear (or remember) vivid examples of the fear, shame, and ridicule that lead to learning how to read a situation.

Being highly attuned to context as a lesbian, gay man, bisexual, or transgender person shapes your internal world, too. It affects how you think and feel about yourself. In response to an outside world full of negative messages about what it means to be attracted to people of the same sex or gender nonconforming, many people come to view themselves as deeply flawed, unlovable, unworthy, and hopeless.

Minority Stress

Psychologists refer to this contextual process of dealing with persistent prejudice and discrimination as minority stress. Many studies have shown that it has powerful, lasting, and negative impacts on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ people. Bottom line: It creates a situation ripe for struggling with anxiety and depression.

Your Life in a Larger Context

Coping with minority stress does not tell the whole story, though, in the lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgender individuals. There’s way more to each person’s life than that: Camaraderie, pride, strength, and sense of belonging are found in community, friendship, and the love of other LGBTQ people and their supportive allies. All of us, whether gay, straight, gender conforming or not  —  or somewhere in between — are more than a constellation of the difficulties that we’ve had to face.

If You’re Searching for Help

The ways that anxiety and depression are part of your life are determined by many factors. Our bodies, predispositions, and life experiences all play a role. My advice for LGBTQ people seeking help with their anxiety or depression is this: Seek a professional who gets the larger contextual picture and what it means to be you.

Find a LGBTQ-Affirming Mental Health Care Provider


About the Author

BradBrenner-websize.jpgBrad Brenner, PhD, is a counseling psychologist and the founder and Clinical Director of the Therapy Group of DC. He also cofounded The Capital Therapy Project, a community-based psychotherapy training institute.  

 

I'm 53 now, I came out when I was 17, and I can't remember when I was not angry and or depressed or both. I have never really had a problem getting on with straight people as an adult, I have a small group of close gay friends and a fantastic best friend, but I deal with such depression and anger all the time. Always feeling lesser than or not good enough, not rich enough, not good looking enough, the underlying problems I have and always have had, really effect my daily life, I get so mad so quickly in traffic or with anyone in any situation where I feel attacked or disrespected, it is a wonder I have not actually torn into somebody physically, but as yet I have not. But I'll call them every name in the book. I feel like I'm just getting through each day and I have nothing to look forward to except debt and old age. I feel so trapped in my life with no way out. I wish so much I could just walk away and go off the grid, the current state of affairs in our country makes me want to escape to some hole in the wall in Canada where no one can find me. I'm really really sad

Hi there, let me start with assurance that you are not alone. There are many struggling with same or even worst situations of life.
While I understand how frustrating and devastating, depression can be and is more common in the community but am sure there are things to look forward to and thank god for this beautiful life. Sending you lots of love and warm hugs :)

My heart really goes out to you because I can just imagine how nice of a person you really are. Usually people that goes through this kind of pain doesn’t deserve it because nine out of ten times they are the ones who keep others laughing. I wish I could just take away the pain and the anger you feel but it’s not that easy. The only thing I can say is that if you wish so badly to walk away from it, just pray about it. Don’t feel like God only loves straight people, he loves everyone and died for all our sins. He will help you walk away from it all. It may not happen overnight, and you shouldn’t worry about how long it takes, just forget about what people think and turn to the Lord and he will not turn you away. I know many no longer believe in God but he is real. He can help you with your struggles and he won’t scorn or judge you. You can tell him anything and not have to worry about hearing it back. He loves you and want to set you feel from all struggles and bondages that keeps you sad and make you angry. Be encouraged and hold your head up. You are loved!

You all are beautiful people.The second you feel bad about yourself is the second the haters win.They are just ignorant and not educated.
My daughter is gay and i had to take her out of the mainstream school because the whole school made fun of her and called her disgusting .She believed it and started to feel suicidal.
I intervened and took her out of the school.
She now feels so much better and she is with her peers. Please dont ever think you are less than .stand up and enjoy your life . Let the hater be invisible in your eyes. Stick with people who love and support you.
I will always stick up for the lgbt community. We love you and need you.

This really scares me because my 15 year old says she feels like a negative 10 all the time when she acts, looks or appears happy she says she must have made it all the way up to zero or something. How do I help her feel better about the future? College? Goal setting? She’s on meds for anxiety and depression and Sees a counselor regularly.

As a parent there is no pain worse then watch our child struggle or be in pain . All I can say always let them know how muched they are loved and wanted and the effect it would have on those they love to not be apart of there beautiful future and it may not seam like it but they are in control of that 100% and you will always love and support and be there to pick them up . Love Love Love ?

I hear what you are saying. My best advice is seek out a psychologist for help. There are things in your life that you have dealt with, without necessarily dealing with them. Things that you may have overlooked that subconciously affect and have affected your satisfaction with life. A big misconception about what you have posted is, not all of these problems are related to sexual orientation. Heterosexual people also suffer from many of the same thoughts and disatisfaction. This does not signify that there is something wrong with you, or that you are not good enough. Rather, you need to be open with someone, express yourself, feel heard and feel important. It is a basic psychological need of humans. You are good enough.

In my school in L.A. we are writing about argumentative which means we get a topic and we are either aganst it or forward it i made my own and this is my topic Should people be judged for not being straight? im against being judged for who you want to be and i was wondering if it's okay with you to put your comment in my essay so people now how some people are.

It is true that you first have to love yourself. The first step is accepting who you are. I've always known that I was different. At first, I thought it was a phase, but this was just denial. I've always been attracted to females, but I often denied my attraction for other males. For years, I tried to hide it, but it was obvious to those closest to me. I knew I was attracted to both sexes by age 12. For years, I suffered from depression and anxiety, and even attempted suicide. I hated who I was because I had always been taught that anything other than a man loving a woman is wrong. Over 30 years later, I absolutely love my life and who I've become. I realized that God loves me for who I am and what's in my heart. For anyone that is struggling with their sexuality, please know that it's okay to just be who you are.
-Jerry

Never too late.... I have friends who came out in their sixties and are enjoying every minute of it, also you will be surprised how many gay men I know in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are good looking, very bright AND single.... and they all thing they are the only one like that :-) .... just take it one step at a time and (yes! even at 73) don't rush it, just do nice and easy does it

Hello my name is fred beckett, while i may not know much about what you are going through right now, i just want to say that it will be ok. I know that sounds contradictive to what i said earlier, but i do truly believe that you will be ok. There are people and organisations out there that are 100% willing to help you out. You are an amazing and wonderful person and it is understandable to be angry and scared. But i can 100% promise you that it will all be ok, i am really proud of your strength and resilience of being able to get this far, you are an amazing person, i love you and i can promise you that everything is going to be ok!

You sound very much like my partner I’m straight female but partner has been slipping things out over the last year , ive finally put puzzle together he knows I know and he too feels like you , yers I was very confused but I’ve been here before same thing with partner, very fked up in head angry with them selfs cos they were worried how the world would think of them , I have a son who gay and his s bright button but today it’s excepted , it don’t bother me at all what sex you are as long as your honest with your self and those around you it is excepted today but bk in day wasn’t so you can imagine the dark secret both my partners had to carry , yes it messed with my head but I get it now just didn’t expect it twice over , gets done help cancelling therpy for exceptance if I’m honest there’s more gays lesbians in this world that meets the ear , not many straight people left but you are what you are just need to except

I totally understand in Sydney ugly straights like nothing better than to mock harass cat call gays. I figure their lives suck and they love putting minorities down to make their sad little debt stacked lives tolerable. You are not alone.

Hey I will start by saying that I’m really sorry of what you’re going through what I would suggest try and pray ask god for peace and self control I’m struggling too with different things but I wake up every day and I’m grateful and I ask god to help me be strong and positive thru out the day I’m so sorry again that you’re going thru that but I will get better day by day I’m sending much love ❤️

I have had panic attacks for close to twenty years. Seven months ago it hit a peak that I could no longer handle. I am quite comfortable in my own skin as a gay man. I've been out for thirty years. I stand up for all in the LGBTQ community. I don't know where to go from here. I'm no longer strong.

He is just more than I can ever ask for in a kid. Smarter beyond his years,at least for school.We can talk for hours.I think his mom and I already knew. Once he confirmed it, nothing really changed, except we started noticing all of a sudden he would just disappear like he was walking up to the store, but wouldn't see him for over an hour.Then we found on his computer and phone he had been chatting and meeting up with much older men. Taking stuff away is futile for him. Talking isn't doing anything. I am scared for his life. Neither his mom not I know what we can do.We accept him, we are not rich, but have tried to give him everything he needs and some wants. I work at a restaurant, his mom works at an office.

Hello, I just turned 21 years old and understand his struggles Completely. I have bad anxiety,ADHD, and depression and when I came out at 17 and moved in with my grandparents it’s like it got worse. When I was younger I loved god and had a connection with him however I did notice I felt I wasn’t as happy as most kids in my class. Eventually that led me to stray for my love from him. It’s like I was Battling myself for most of my life for just a mere breath and it became truly draining for my heart and soul. Please just encourage and show him as much love as possible.Also show him you care to know more about his lifestyle from a comfortable respectful distance. My parents made the mistake of ignoring me and my mental health and because of that are relationship has struggled very much because of it. My parents are now just realizing how much my mental health has been discouraging me now that I bring up and so now my mom got me an appointment with a psychiatrist in a few days. So please stay positive everyone even though it’s truly difficult at first. Best of peace and love to anyone suffering from these emotional and spiritual hurdles we will make it I know it!

My friend is an in the closet gay,
The main problem is that he is religous and believes homosexuality is a grave sin.
Its killing him inside out and besides the suicidal thoughts and speech,
he literally loves and hates his family as they are also religious and see it as a crime.
I have no idea what to do but I'm terrified hes going to do it.
Any suggestions?

My friend I am a Christian woman (you don't say which religion you're friend is) so I can only talk about Jesus and believe me He would never reject anyone ever He tell's us you only have to believe in Him
He died to take away our sin's He loves everyone the same regardless of what some so called Christians say "Let those among you without sin cast the first stone" I pray for you you're friend and his family God Bless

Hi,

I'm 25, I currently live with my boyfriend and he wants to propose. I love him but I don't feel sexually attracted to him. We have plans to buy a house hopefully next year. He knows I identify as Bisexual but this year I've been more sexually attracted to girls. I've only kissed girls and nothing more. I've always said I would settle with a guy because its easier to have kids and my mum would be happy and I thought I would. Im worried this could he a phase and I don't want to throw away what I have because if it was a phase then I will have lost everything. He is my best friend and I don't want to hurt him and he is the only guy I can see myself getting married to and having kids with. Please can you advise me because its been really negative to my mental health. I've been really down and trying to pretend I'm happy so my partner doesn't know.

Hi, I am 30 yo and in a similar situation. My whole life I thought I was straight. I had no interest in guys at all as a teenager but I remember thinking girls were so so beautiful but because of how women are portrayed in our society I thought it was totally normal to think about them all the time. I thought this was comparison/admiration only. I would stare at beautiful girls in my class, heck, I even kissed girls in college and thought it was so great that girls could do this and still be straight! I finally had my first crush on a guy in college and ended up becoming his GF at 21 yo. I am still with him today and we recently got engaged. I love him so much, he's my best friend, and just like you if I am to get married and have kids with a man, he is the person I would want to do it with. However, it always concerned me that I didn't enjoy sex. I assumed I was probably some form of asexual until recently when I found myself working with a new co-worker and I absolutely adored being around her. We were always texting and laughing and she made work so enjoyable. I had no idea I actually fancied her or that I was even not straight until I felt butterflies in my stomach looking at her one day and realized I had a thing for her. She had a GF and I obviously am engaged so nothing more than flirting ever happened. Eventually, she got a job offer elsewhere which left me feeling so lost. It has been so hard, I have such guilt about the crush, about my sexuality, traumatized from how I didn't realize I wasn't straight until this late in life and I'm also having to deal with missing her while trying to plan a wedding in addition to pretending everything is ok to my fiance who I live with so the only time I can cry about it all is in the middle of the night when he's asleep. He knows something is wrong because I have withdrawn from him quite a bit but I keep shrugging it off as COVID related work stress which he seems to accept. I oscillate so much between deciding to call the wedding off and coming out or staying in the closet and going ahead with the wedding. Like you, I'm afraid that if this is only a phrase brought on by this crush that I will have given up everything I have. In addition, I don't have a lot of friends, because my whole life, in the back of mind, I have always felt quite different from other people so I have never been good at maintaining friendships for a long period. So aside from my partner, I only have one other friend from childhood (who introduced me to my fiance) and my siblings. My parents are great but my family is quite conservative and would not be accepting of me coming out especially as they are all so excited about the wedding. And then there's my childhood friend, even though she has a gay brother, I have always felt she has a prejudice against gay women and also she is really good friends with my fiance so the odds of me losing everything if I were to come out are really high, I would have literally no support system. I feel so trapped and I don't know what to do. I'm just hoping that I'm bisexual and not lesbian and that this will all go away and I'll start to feel more into my relationship again.

Anyway, I really don't have any advice for you, I just felt so much solidarity reading your post and maybe it will help you to know that there is someone else out there in a similar situation. My plan is to go to see a therapist as soon as face to face sessions are allowed as I don't like the idea of online counseling.

I came out to my family at the age a 24 i wasn't ready and i didn't have the support system i wish i could of had, so in my anger and pain pushed my family away so i wouldn't get hurt again, im 28 now i isolated a lot im constantly angry and reliving my betrayal in my head i know i haven't completely accepted myself and would just like any advice on what i should do

I am out to my mom, dad, stepdad, step-sister, and friends, but I go to school every day and feel like I can't be myself. I try to dress more masculine in hope people will notice, but I am also on the volleyball team so I'm scared they'll judge me. I'm not as scared for my basketball girls to know because I have better connections with them. I have always hated being judged and I don't know how well I would take it. I have a girlfriend, but she lives 5 hours away from me. I wish I could publicly post about her on social media. I live in the south and there are many Republicans and Conservatives. I always hear people talk grossly about gay people just being themselves and showing who they are. I just wish sexuality was normalized.

Katherine Quidato

September 10, 2020

There are things in life that we did not expect to happen. At first, I am what they so called "straight" but as time goes by I suddenly fall in love with a girl and I am happy for choosing to fall in love with her even more everyday. We only live once and we should not stop our self for doing and loving the things we wanted. I, too, afraid of discrimination but choosing to be the person u really wanted, must accept the fact that we will eventually face the negative things in life even sometimes it is from the people closest to our hearts, it hurts but that's life we cannot always have the people we expected to stay at our side because they also have their own opinions and beliefs. Just love yourself and live your life to the fullest. Cheers to all of us!

I didn't have that much problem in accepting myself I was really happy but now whenever I think of coming out to everyone it scares me. I feel lonely due to this and often get tears in my eyes whenever I think coming out to my parents as bisexual. I feel that my peers would treat me differently and I just don't. want to be a centre of attraction. I don't know when is the right to come out and whether it'll help me or affects me

Anonymous Emo Girl

October 7, 2020

I'm 17 years old and I'll be turning 18 in a couple months. I've been thinking about coming out as pansexual since I was 13, but every time I think about coming out, I get full on anxiety attacks. My mom thinks it's just a phase and my dad thinks that teens act like they are LGBTQ just to fit in. I'm scared of their response.. I'm scared that everything will change..

It is not fair, being LGBTQ should just be considered normal like it is, people should not have to be afraid, anxious or fearful when coming out to loved one or friends, it’s not your fault you feel this way, it’s society’s fault. Somethings will change when you come out, I can’t hide that from you, but overthinking it won’t help. If you don’t feel ready or comfortable to come out to your parents, maybe come out to a friend who you care and trust. Friendships are hard things to change.

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