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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!