Have you read about mental health problems associated with homosexuality? The LGBTQ+ community remains riddled with loads of myths and preconceptions, particularly regarding their mental health. Read ahead to expose some of the most common misconceptions, and uncover the truths about gay mental health conditions.
Despite many developments in the LGBTQ+ community’s attempts for freedom and acceptance, there are still many falsehoods about homosexuality. Mainstream society still tends to distort and sensationalize homosexuality and its negative mental health connotations.
The general public’s misunderstanding of homosexuality is the source of the spread of many of these false beliefs about gay males. Many people learn about homosexuality for the first time from the media, which can either sensationalize or minimize the issues involved.
This article explores and corrects common myths about mental health among gay men. Moreover, it will present accurate information on homosexuality and how gay men can improve mental health problems.
Defining Mental Health: What Is Mental Health for Gay Men?
Before even addressing misconceptions about mental health among gay men, it’s important to know what it is in the first place. Mental health includes the way people think, feel, and act. It refers to an individual’s social, emotional, and mental well being.
Mental health plays a role in determining a person’s ability to respond to pressure, interact with others, and ultimately make decisions. Thus, talking about mental health is all the more important within the LGBTQ+ community due to the discrimination and other negative social encounters that they experience in everyday living.
Mental Health Condition of Most Gay Men
Studies suggest that gay men experience adverse mental health outcomes more commonly than straight men. These mental health issues include mood disorders, substance use, and even suicidal thoughts.
Suffering from mental health issues can have far-reaching consequences on a person’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning throughout their lifetime. There are a number of causes of mental illness, and factors that may trigger them:
- Biological influences like genes and brain chemistry can influence mental health conditions
- Situations encountered in real life, such as abuse or trauma
- Mental illness in the family
Are Gay Men Prone to Mental Health Disorders?
What makes gay men prone to mental disorders like depression? It’s not uncommon for people to hear negative thoughts and stories of traumatic event that gay men experience.
Homophobia, stigma, and prejudice can all have detrimental consequences on health if they persist. These grim experiences become sources of stress, anxiety, and trauma that can make it difficult for homosexuals (and even most people) to handle stress, resulting in mental health problems.
In addition, studies reveal that gay and bisexual males are more likely to have:
- Major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
- Higher chance of abusing alcohol and other drugs
Typical Mental Health Issues Among Gay Men
Behavioral health statistics identified some of the most common mental health issues gay men go through. Some of them are discussed below:
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) fifth edition (2013) defines depression clinically as a depressive mood or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities over a two-week period.
While both sexes are equally susceptible to depression, men have a fourfold greater suicide rate than women do. Nearly 80 percent of the 41,149 Americans who took their own lives in 2013 were men.
According to studies, gay men’s depression commonly begins in their teens and persists into their early adulthood. It’s not shocking to learn that homophobia plays a role or that melancholy brought on by homophobia might have negative consequences.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), more often known as the “winter blues,” is expected during this time of year because of the shorter days and earlier nights. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, and other events may intensify this form of melancholy for LGBTQ individuals because they can bring up painful memories.
These painful memories may be stories of family rejection, the coming out process, or conventional family beliefs that have long oppressed them from genuine gender expression.
The findings of a study show that gay males, in comparison to their straight counterparts, experience higher levels of anxiety related to social interactions and a poorer sense of self-worth. Specifically, anxiety grows worse among gay men who are less open about their sexual orientation and who are less comfortable with who they are.
The social environment in which LGBTQ+ people develop can be a trigger for increased social anxiety. You were brought up in a place that doesn’t seem to want you there, and you may believe that about yourself. Minority stress may contribute to the formation of a deep conviction that you are not a valuable human being.
Gay men, like everyone else, go through the typical stages of adolescence. Still, they have the added stress of having to reconcile their internal conflicts with the external pressures of the world around them. Unfortunately, not every adolescent is able to get through this internal struggle without developing self-hatred. In grave situations, gay men resort to self-harming as a coping mechanism.
Self-harming is the act of a person who injures themself on purpose. They might try to draw blood by cutting themselves, overdose on medication, or hit their heads against walls. In most cases, a person who self-inflicts harm does not want to end their life but instead uses harming themselves as a coping mechanism for uncomfortable emotions.
Self-harming is not a matter to be taken lightly. If left unsupervised, it may lead to persistent thoughts of self-injury or, worse, suicide.
Setting the Records ‘Straight’ on Common Mental Health Myths
By now, you have a pretty good picture of the facts about mental health among gay men. It’d be easier to tackle the myths and better understand mental health conditions.
Myth #1: You Will Carry Depression Throughout Your Whole Life
Being diagnosed with mental illnesses is not a life sentence. One person’s struggle with mental illness can look very different from another’s. A person may have episodes, but in between them, they may feel completely “normal.” Some people are able to discover medication or conversation therapy that helps them gain stability and better mental health.
Truth #1: Each Person’s Healing Process Is Unique
Some people may recover from their mental illness soon after therapy. At the same time, others may take a longer time. One can never tell when a person with mental health problems can be genuinely okay.
The main takeaway is that healing and recovering from mental health issues vary from person to person.
Think about how “healing” can mean something different to everyone. For some, being better means returning to where they were before their symptoms started. For others, recovery may mean alleviating symptoms and the opportunity to resume a fulfilling lifestyle, however that may look.
Myth #2: Only Females Experience Eating Disorders
Eating disorders, and unhealthy relationships with food, are also under mental health issues. However, it is false thinking to see eating disorders as solely a female issue. Young, white, affluent women are often stereotyped as being the ones that suffer from eating disorders. Anyone, however, is vulnerable to their effects.
Truth #2: Gay Men Can Also Suffer From Eating Disorders
A study identified changes in eating disorder statistics over a decade and shows that the affected demographics are changing. Males aged 45 and up, mostly from low-income families, saw the most significant increases in people with eating disorders.
Depending on the study, men currently make up anywhere from 10%-25% of all instances of anorexia, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorders.
Myth #3: Being ‘Out of the Closet’ Means Nothing
Many people belittle gay men’s coming out experiences. Worse, others thought that outing or revealing another person’s homosexuality was a light matter. Sexual identity and sexual expression are both crucial to a person’s mental health. Being robbed of the chance to come out as gay, or being revealed by someone else, can be a harmful experience for gay men.
Truth #3: Coming Out as Gay Is a Milestone
Being homosexual or bisexual is difficult enough without having to deal with the added stress of hiding your orientation from others (staying “in the closet”) or worrying about being publicly revealed (being “outed”).
The health of gay and bisexual males has been studied extensively, and those who are open about their sexual orientation have been found to fare better than those who are not.
Myth #4: Gay Men With Mental Illness Are Inherently Dangerous
Some people with mental illness are more prone to violent outbursts and unpredictable behavior, but this is not the norm. Thankfully, as awareness of mental health issues grows, this stigma is being gradually eliminated. People with the most severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia, tend to be peaceful.
The media, being naturally curious creatures, are drawn to stories of violence. The media’s tendency to sensationalize acts of violence involving people with mental illness serves to add fuel to the fire of the widespread prejudice our patients face every day.
Truth #4: Not All Mental Illnesses Have Violent Tendencies
It is an uncomfortable fact for many that people with certain types of mental diseases are more prone to violence than others in the general community.
However, individuals with mental illness do not offer any more significant risk of violence above the general population when adequately managed. Generally speaking, the role of mental illness as a contributing factor to violent acts in society appears to be exaggerated.
People with certain types of severe mental illness, specifically schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, have been found to have higher rates of violence perpetration than the general population. However, there is little evidence to suggest that people with mental illness, in general, are all violent.
Common Myths About Gay Men That Can Damage Their Mental Health
Several factors contribute to the development of mental health issues among gay men. Among the most alarming factors are the myths about gay men and homosexuality. This misinformation may worsen the mental state of gay men and hinder them from attaining their mental health needs.
Below are some fallacious beliefs about gay men that we usually hear from misinformed people.
Myth #1: Being Gay Is Just a Phase
You will often hear people saying that being gay is just a fad or phase. This stereotype about gay men persists because many people think homosexuality is temporary.
As a result of this misunderstanding, hundreds of gay men have sought out gay conversion therapy (often known as “reverse gay counseling”) as a treatment for queerness. Some gay men even entered into heterosexual relationships. This leads gay men to be vulnerable to the anguish of infidelity, divorce, or child custody battles when they attempt to hide their actual identity and feelings.
Truth #1: Truth: Being Gay Is a Life-long Identity
People used to view queerness as a mental illness. But being gay is an identity and not a mental health disorder. Forcing a gay man to change his identity can be very detrimental to his mental health and may lead him to experience mental health problems.
Myth#2: Aids Will Kill All Gay Men
You’d be surprised to see many people still believing the rumors about AIDS since the 1980s due to fear and ignorance. People thought that only gay men carry and transmit AIDS. However, the World Health Organization long proved that AIDS could be shared among couples who don’t engage in safe sex.
Truth #2: AIDS Also Affects Heterosexuals
Though its cause remains unknown, AIDS has been demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt to not be a homosexuality-specific illness. Heterosexual intercourse may also transmit AIDS.
Initiate discussions with your partner about safe sexual practices and education on the risks of HIV/AIDS. Although it may feel strange at first, this discussion is important to have.
Myth #3: Gay Men Are All Effeminate
There are many factors involved in one’s queerness. However, most people tend to automatically attribute a male’s femininity to being gay. One of the most common misconceptions about the homosexual community is that all gay men secretly long to be women. The media’s portrayal of gay men as overly feminine is a problem.
Truth #3: Some Gay Men Are Masculine
Look at the spectrum of masculinity found among straight guys to see that gay men are just as varied as any other social group. Some gays also prefer to act and dress masculinely as well.
Moving Forward: How Gay Men Can Cope Through Mental Health Problems
Most homosexual and bisexual men, like everyone else, can make it through tough times, provided they have access to support services.
Take Care of Your Physical Health
A person’s mental health is not ‘all in his head.’ An individual should also engage in self care activities that ensure the well being of their physical bodies. These biological factors can directly or indirectly affect one’s mental health.
Embrace Your Sexuality
Conservatives often ridicule gay men (and usually the whole LGBTQ+ community) as hypersexual beings. But in reality, there’s nothing to be ashamed of that. Humans are sexual animals, and you shouldn’t deprive yourself of the sensual pleasures you can experience as long as you keep it safe and consensual.
Don’t shame yourself and others for having unconventional kinks and fetishes. Try to explore what turns you on, and have the confidence to ask it from your partner. Not sure where to start? Browse Smitizen’s wide collection of sex gear that can help you realize your sexual desires and fantasies.
Seek Professional Help
Getting professional treatment and support is crucial if you or someone you love is having mental health problems. Below are some suggestions for where you may receive professional help for better mental health:
Providers of LGBTQ+-specific mental health care
Members of the LGBT+ community can access a variety of counseling services, many of which are free or a at a low rate. You can look for these things online or inquire about a service for LGBT+ people in your area.
Local LGBTQ+ Organizations
To aid its members in times of emotional distress, some LGBT+ organizations host meetings, pair members with mentors, and staff crisis hotlines. If you look for LGBT+ organizations in your area online, you should be able to locate some local service providers who can help you out.
Surround Yourself With Good People as Much as Possible
You can’t control the people you encounter in life. But you can filter those who can stay in your life and those you want to surround yourself with. Always go for people who make you feel good about yourself, and accept you for who you are. Fill your days with positive social interactions as much as possible.
People with lots of friends and family tend to be healthier than those without. But at the end of the day, it’s not about the number of friends you have; but the quality of those friendships. Plan activities with loved ones who will be there for you no matter what, or join a group where you can make new acquaintances.
One of the most critical factors in sustaining emotional wellness and coping with the stresses of daily life is having a strong social network of friends and relatives. Gay men can find support in various communities, social, sports, and other groups if they cannot receive it from friends and family.
Seeking professional mental health counseling and joining a support group that understands and accepts gay and bisexual men’s unique needs can be very helpful.