The LGBTQIA+ community experiences unique mental health issues that often result from systemic oppression and social stigma. Research shows they are 2x more likely to experience mental health issues like anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and they are also at a higher risk for suicidal ideation. These issues coincide with the numerous sociopolitical, racial, homophobic, and transphobic beliefs entrenched within our society. Furthermore, experiences with social rejection, bullying, and relationship issues often make daily life challenging.
LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Concerns
Of course, no two individuals in the LGBTQIA+ population are the same, but many people can relate to some of the widespread barriers impacting the community. Here are some of the main issues I help address in my practice:
Disenfranchised grief refers to a specific type of grief that happens when you feel you can't publicly acknowledge or mourn your loss. For example, if you haven't disclosed a certain relationship, and you and your partner break up, you may experience disenfranchised grief symptoms because you don't know how to talk about your sadness or anger with others.
Disenfranchised grief can also correlate with:
grieving relationships you can't have with family members because they don't support who you are
grieving opportunities that aren't available to you due to your gender identity or sexual orientation
grieving the deaths of members of the community
All grief can be painful, but disenfranchised grief is particularly complex. It's important to have a supportive place where you can talk about your feelings without judgment. It's also important to learn how to cope with your distress compassionately- engaging in self-sabotage or numbing behaviors may feel "good" at the moment, but they only perpetuate more suffering.
Identity Concerns/Desire for Further Exploration
To be human is to want to know yourself. However, this journey of self-discovery can feel dangerous for people identifying with having marginalized identities. While your sexual orientation or gender identity certainly doesn't define who you are, they represent core parts of your overall self. Being able to accept and embrace them can harness better self-esteem and more meaningful relationships.
Some clients enter therapy because they feel confused, afraid, or ashamed about who they are. This is completely understandable, and therapy offers a safe environment to explore these feelings.
Trauma and Complex Relationship Issues
Almost everyone in the LGBTQIA+ population can universally relate to feeling alienated or rejected from their own support system at some point in life. This type of rejection can be traumatic, and it may make it difficult for you to trust others, have fulfilling relationships, or feel safe being yourself.
In addition, bullying, sexual assault, harassment, and violence all represent traumatic experiences affecting the LGBTQIA+ population. These traumatic events can happen in young childhood, and they may persist while dating, navigating the workplace, or while simply walking down the street.
All trauma affects the mind and body, and it can feel like you're "stuck" in the horrors of your past. Addressing these events safely is an important part of healing. You may notice that you feel worse before you feel better, but if you stick with it, most people find trauma therapy to be a profound, life-changing experience.
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health issues and members of the LGBTQIA+ population experience higher-than-average anxiety levels. Macro-level variables may exacerbate anxiety. For example, facing ongoing discrimination and prejudice undoubtedly impact how afraid you feel in everyday life. If you're worried about your boss finding out about your sexual orientation and firing you as a result, this adds an overwhelming burden to an ordinary workday.
Anxiety can be both emotional and physical. On an emotional level, you may feel panicked, insecure, or restless throughout the day. On a physical level, you might experience panic attacks, sleep problems, chest tightness, and unexplained body aches.
Therapy for anxiety needs to be affirmative. Mental health professionals must understand the systemic issues that inherently cause anxiety in the first place. From there, treatment can focus on managing anxiety symptoms, regulating emotions, and improving self-esteem.
Affirmative LGBTQIA+ Therapy in Northwest Arkansas
When seeking therapy, it's essential to work with an affirming therapist who actively advocates for equality and social justice. You deserve an inclusive practice that wholeheartedly embraces you for who you are. Affirming mental health professionals dedicate themselves to ongoing education about the specific concerns and needs prevalent within the LGBTQIA+ population. Treatment focuses on improving your emotional well-being and empowering you to feel proactive in your own life. Finding the right therapist can help you make these important changes in your life. I would be honored to provide this nurturing, safe place for you. Regardless of your struggles, I aim to offer unconditional compassion and support.