Mental health issues if you're gay, lesbian or bisexual

Studies show that lesbian, gay and bisexual people show higher levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings than heterosexual men and women.

Rates of drug and alcohol misuse have also been found to be higher. But the real picture is uncertain because of the reluctance of some patients to disclose their sexuality, and some healthcare staff feeling uncomfortable asking the question. 

Poor levels of mental health among gay and bisexual people have often been linked to experiences of homophobic discrimination and bullying.

It may not be easy, but getting help if you're feeling stressed, depressed, anxious or suicidal is one of the most important things you can do.

Dominic Davies from Pink Therapy, a mental health support service for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, says: "As LGB people, our mental health is often under attack from various quarters, and sometimes we can find ourselves being our own worst enemy.

"Counselling or psychotherapy can be a place to take stock and figure out what's going on, and how to better handle the various stresses and strains that surround our lives."

Read about different types of talking therapy and how they can help.

Although society has changed and homophobic prejudice is less common than it used to be, most lesbian, gay and bisexual people have experienced a range of difficulties in their lives. These can contribute to mental health problems.

For some, other factors such as age, religion or ethnicity can further complicate mental distress.

Many gay people have experienced:

  • hostility or rejection from family, parents and friends
  • bullying and name calling at school
  • rejection by most mainstream religions
  • danger of violence in public places
  • harassment from neighbours and other tenants
  • casual homophobic comments on an everyday basis
  • embarrassed responses (and occasionally prejudice) from professionals, such as GPs
  • no protection against discrimination at work
  • negative portrayal of gay people in the media

The effect on your mental health

Experiencing these difficulties can mean many gay and bisexual people face mental health issues, including:

  • difficulty accepting their sexual orientation, leading to conflicts, denial, alcohol abuse and isolation
  • trying to keep their sexuality a secret through lying, pretending or leading a double life
  • low self-esteem
  • increased risk of self-harm and suicide attempts
  • damaged relationships or lack of support from families
  • post-traumatic stress disorder and depression from long-term effects of bullying

If you think you need help, ask your GP to refer you to the appropriate service.

Now, read how to access talking therapies on the NHS.

Page last reviewed: 17/07/2014

Next review due: 17/07/2017

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