Mental Health Issues
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Psychological research in this area includes examining mental health issues (including stress, depression, or addictive behavior) faced by gay and lesbian people as a result of the difficulties they experience because of their sexual orientation, physical appearance issues, eating disorders, or gender atypical behavior.
- Psychiatric disorders: In a Dutch study, gay men reported significantly higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders than straight men, and lesbians were significantly more likely to experience depression (but not other mood or anxiety disorders) than straight women.
- Physical appearance and eating disorders: Gay men tend to be more concerned about their physical appearance than straight men. Lesbian women are at a lower risk for eating disorders than heterosexual women.
- Gender atypical behavior: While this is not a disorder, gay men may face difficulties due to being more likely to display gender atypical behavior than heterosexual men. The difference is less pronounced between lesbians and straight women.
- Minority stress: Stress caused from a sexual stigma, manifested as prejudice and discrimination, is a major source of stress for people with a homosexual orientation. Sexual-minority affirming groups and gay peer groups help counteract and buffer minority stress.
- Ego-dystonic sexual orientation: Conflict between religious identity and sexual orientation identity can cause severe stress, causing some people to want to change their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation identity exploration can help individuals evaluate the reasons behind the desire to change and help them resolve the conflict between their religious and sexual identity, either through sexual orientation identity reconstruction or affirmation therapies. Therapists are to offer acceptance, support, and understanding of clients and the facilitation of clients’ active coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, without imposing a specific sexual orientation identity outcome. Ego-dystonic sexual orientation is a disorder where a person wishes their sexual orientation were different because of associated psychological and behavioral disorders.
- Sexual relationship disorder: People with a homosexual orientation in mixed-orientation marriages may struggle with the fear of the loss of their marriage. Therapists should focus exploring the underlying personal and contextual problems, motivations, realities, and hopes for being in, leaving, or restructuring the relationship and should not focus solely on one outcome such as divorce or marriage. Sexual relationship disorder is a disorder where the gender identity or sexual orientation interferes with maintaining or forming of a relationship.
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