Home » LGBTQ+ Mental Health: Why are There Higher Rates of Mood Disorders

The LGBTQ+ community has made great strides in gaining equal rights in the U.S. However, there are still some data points that concern psychiatrists and other healthcare providers. Particularly the higher incidence of mood disorders for LGBTQ+ individuals.

The stress of societal discrimination is likely the driving cause behind the increase in mood and substance abuse disorders among people who identify as LGBTQ. Members of the LGBTQ+ community can experience threats, harassment, intimidation and violence.

Data from SAMHSA & NIH:

Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) displays these societal trends. SAMHSA statistics state that roughly 40 percent of adults who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) in 2015 to 2016 were diagnosed with a mental health condition. As a comparison, for the general U.S. population, this rate was only at 18 percent.

For the incidence of serious mental illnesses (SMI) a similar trend line is evident. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) defines a SMI as:

  • Having a sufficient duration that meets criteria in the DSM-IV (4th ed).
  • Is a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder that is diagnosable within the most recent 12 months.
  • Creates a serious functional impairment that disrupts a person’s day-to-day activities.

Among the U.S. population, roughly 4% of individuals experience a serious mental illness. Yet, for people who the NIH identifies as lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) the number increases to 14%.

Other data sources reinforce these statistical findings. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), men who identify as gay, have a statistically greater risk of receiving a diagnosis for a mood disorder or other behavioral health conditions. These outcomes include elevated rates of suicide, substance use and mood disorders. As a reminder, societal discrimination, family rejection and internalized homophobia are the likely sources of these elevated rates of mental health conditions.

Psychiatric data indicates that there is a greater prevalence of mood disorders in males who identify as gay when compared to males who identify as heterosexual. For mood disorders ranging from major depression and dysthymia to generalized anxiety disorder to panic attacks (without agoraphobia) the data displays stark differences. The occurrence of mood disorders in men who identify as gay is at least twice as likely when compared to men who identify as heterosexual.

Suicide Ideation & Rates:

Beyond sexual identity and gender, individuals with mental health conditions such as bipolar disorders have higher rates of suicide. However, when demographic data and life experiences are controlled, some clear conclusions are visible.

In particular, beyond comparison of mood disorders between gay and heterosexual men, homosexual men are statistically more likely to report having thoughts of suicide ideation. Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) states that males are four times more likely to take their own life. For males who identify as gay and/or bisexual, the risk of suicide is even higher, particularly for men 25 years old or younger.

Similar data suicide attempts have been identified when studying transgender and gender-diverse (TGD) individuals. The increased risk for suicide and suicide ideation were still evident after controlling for age, race, access to health care and personal experiences. Similar to gay males when compared to heterosexual males, individuals who identified as TGD were at a higher risk of having a mood disorder or substance use diagnosis.

Again, people should not reach the wrong conclusion. These elevated rates of mental health disorders are not because of failings or weaknesses in these groups of people. Discrimination, threats, violence, feeling judged and other daily stressors contribute to these higher rates of mood disorders and substance abuse.

What Can a Person Do?

How individuals self-identify themselves should not matter. If people are struggling physically or mentally – they should seek out professional help. Individuals should not give up hope!

The staff at Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center is available to help. If it is an emergency, people can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

People should be patient with themselves and understand that change does not happen overnight. Individuals should not hesitate to seek out the advice of an experienced psychiatrists or similar licensed mental health professional. People should not struggle alone – there is always hope.

Here are three strategies that people can adopt in order to promote better self-esteem. These are not a cure of mood disorders and substance abuse, but they are a step in the right direction:

  • Accept themselves, perceived flaws and all. No one is perfect.
  • Reframe problems in their lives and look for solutions to these problems.
  • Focus on practicing mindfulness and other relaxation activities.

Our Psychiatric Center:

Emerald Psychiatry & TMS Center delivers professional, experienced and caring services in Central Ohio. Their center treats a wide variety of conditions ranging from depression and anxiety disorders to addiction and PTSD. For more information about their center’s behavioral health services and treatment options, reach out to them.

Email them or call them direct at (614) 580-6917.

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Contributor:  ABCS RCM