Josh Chandler | January 18, 2022

Disparities in Mental Health and Addiction in LGBTQIA+ Individuals

Addiction Treatment and Mental Healthcare for LGBTQIA+

Despite the progress society has made toward equal rights for those in the LGBTQIA+community, we continue to see disparities in their quality of care regarding mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+. We know this is true because we see worse health outcomes and reduced access to care in this community than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts.

There are many reasons for lower healthcare in the LGBTQIA+ community, including lower insurance coverage rates, lack of cultural competence in the medical setting, higher rates of mental health issues, and discrimination from medical professionals. These disparities are even more significant if individuals are also part of a racial or ethnic minority group.

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community are not inherently more prone to health issues. They have higher rates of health issues like anxiety, depression, and substance abuse due to systemic inequalities, which lead to lower care and worse health outcomes. Fears about not being accepted, bullying, rejection, discrimination, and sexual and physical abuse are very prevalent in the LGBTQIA+ community, putting them at higher risk for substance use and mental health disorders. 

As the addiction rate grows in this community, there is a growing need to provide resources for mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+. Treatment centers that can help mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+ can tailor treatment programs around designing individualized care with an inclusive, non-judgmental space to allow patients to express themselves freely and receive proper care.

Many addiction treatment programs try to be unbiased, but individuals continue to face discrimination and do not feel fully supported. Rehabs specializing in LGBTQIA+ care have staff trained to understand barriers and challenges that gay, lesbian, transgender, etc., may face daily.

Addiction rehabilitation for those in the LGBTQIA+ community may also need co-occurring disorder treatment. Co-occurring disorders include any combination of two or more substance abuse disorders and mental disorders, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc. With the high level of mental health disorders among LGBTQIA+, many turn to substance abuse to manage negative feelings. Addiction recovery is much more effective for long-term sobriety if treatment includes treating the underlying issues of addiction, such as mental health disorders.

In addition, many traditional treatment centers fail to address specific tribulations regarding mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+. These can include dealing and coping with social isolation, family issues, homophobia, and violence.

Click here to call Muse Addiction Center today. Our staff is available 24/7 to provide answers and begin the admissions process. Call (800) 426-1818.

Anxiety Among LGBTQIA+ Individuals

LGBTQIA+ have worse mental health outcomes than other communities, including anxiety. About 30% to 60% of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people deal with anxiety or depression at some point in their lives, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA). That is a 150% to 200% higher rate than their straight or gender-conforming counterparts.

Every individual has their own unique challenges, but there are a lot of common themes among the community that contributes to anxiety disorders. Stigma is a big reason, and they face ridicule, discrimination, rejection, and trauma. 

Another significant factor is minority stress, which includes microaggressions, prejudice, discrimination, and at the extreme end, trauma from physical and sexual assault. All this also leads to anxiety, and LGBTQIA+ can also be less likely to find help for their anxiety because of fear of discrimination from health providers. Untreated stress can lead to many physical and mental health issues, including suicide.

Depression in LGBTQIA+ Communities

Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the US. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in our population, about 7% of people have depression at least once in their lives, and this rate is much higher in the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2019, 23% of LGB youth attempted suicide compared to 6% of heterosexual youth. Depression in LGBTQ adults is usually rooted in stigma, discrimination, and trauma. In a 2015 report from the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), about 20% of transgender people avoided receiving healthcare due to fear of discrimination.

Youth in the LGBTQIA+ community are especially prone to depression, usually due to lack of representation in media, peers, or school, lack of access to information about what they are experiencing and who they are, and lack of access to the community. They are also at higher risk for teasing, bullying, and physical violence at school. Hostile school environment affects their performance in school, causing greater harm to their mental health. Homelife can also be challenging for many when their parents react negatively when they learn their child is LGBTQIA+. This causes them to be at higher risk for homelessness compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth.

Alcohol Abuse and Addiction in LGBTQIA+

According to the Alcohol Rehab Guide, about 5% to 10% of the general population has a moderate dependency on alcohol, but this problem is at about 25% of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are many reasons for this, mainly to cope with the stress of everyday discrimination. Another reason is there aren’t many queer-competent healthcare services, which fuels a high substance use rate. Also, many queer-friendly spaces are places where there is an increased use of alcohol, like gay bars, nightclubs, etc.

Drug Use and Addiction in LGBTQIA+

Drug use is also higher among LGBTQIA+ people, and a 2016 report found that drug misuse is higher among these individuals. The Journal of School Health published a study in 2017 that found that middle and high school students were 2.5 times more likely to use tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy. They were also more likely to misuse prescriptions, diet pills, Adderall, and cold medications.

Many of the same reasons why LGBTQIA+ turn to alcohol are why they turn to drug misuse. Most of the time, they use drugs or alcohol to cope with negative feelings. Again, most of these mental health disorders come from discrimination and social stigma.

Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community choose to keep their identity of who they are, or “in the closet,” due to fear of discrimination, being ostracized by friends and family, or sometimes not having the resources to identify what it is they are feeling. Living this double life can create stress, loneliness, anxiety, and depression, and they often turn to substance abuse to help dull the pain.

Addiction Treatment and Mental Healthcare for LGBTQIA+ at Muse Treatment

At Muse Treatment Center in Los Angeles, we provide a safe and inclusive space for every patient. We are an LGBTQIA+ friendly drug rehab facility providing support for mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+. We train our staff to understand the unique struggles members of this community face. We encourage our LGBTQIA+ patients to release feelings of shame and be comfortable in their own bodies and minds during addiction treatment. It is important to treat addiction patterns by being vulnerable and looking at what has contributed to addiction.

Our program treats each patient as an individual, and we look at each contributing factor that led to their addiction. A successful rehab program provides patients with the opportunity to connect with fellow patients who have undergone similar life experiences. At Muse Treatment Center, we aim to connect our LGBTQIA+ patients with one another to create a stronger sense of community and build a strong foundation of support.

We also understand the high prevalence of co-occurring disorders among the LGBTQIA+ seeking substance abuse recovery. We emphasize treating these disorders and the addiction to get to the root of the problem. Patients will work with counselors individually and in group settings to better understand and heal their mental health. They will also learn new coping mechanisms to overcome triggers that may lead to a relapse. Healing from past traumas and emotional pain is key to finding long-term recovery.

We are aware of the disparities in healthcare in the LGBTQIA+ community that has led many to seek substances to heal their pain and how it also leads to avoiding treatment. You can rest assured that our caring staff and environment will work alongside you to avoid any fears of discrimination inside our walls. Your safety and comfort are our number one priority, and we ensure a culture within our facility that is open, non-judgmental, and inclusive.

As the addiction rate among LGBTQIA+ is a rising concern and the lack of properly inclusive rehab centers, we want to offer an option for those hesitant about getting help due to fear of the biases and discrimination they have felt most of their lives. We can help you overcome your addiction and give you a lifetime of community.

Our team is ready to understand your unique story and help you reach the healthy, stress-free life you envisioned. If you or someone you know is looking for a treatment center specializing in mental health and addiction in LGBTQIA+, please give us a call at (800) 426-1818 today. We are always happy to answer your question or get you on your way to the road to recovery. 

Mental Health,Recovery,Rehab,
Josh Chandler
Josh Chandler
After growing up in Chicago and North Carolina, Josh chose to get help with substance use disorder and mental health in California because of the state's reputation for top-tier treatment. There, he found the treatment he needed to achieve more than five years of recovery. He's been in the drug and alcohol addiction rehab industry for four years and now serves as the Director of Admissions for Resurgence Behavioral Health. Josh remains passionate about the field because he understands that one phone call can alter the course of a person's life.

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