Discrimination Can Be Stressful by Dr. Kristine M. Diaz
Stress. We will all deal with it in different forms every day. Someone cuts you off while you are driving. You have a disagreement with your friend. Or, you are worried about how you will be able to afford your bills this month. We know that stress can affect your health, particularly, your mental health.
But, did you know that the stress you feel as someone who identifies from a diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or sex development can produce the same kind of stress? It can! Perceived discrimination a person experiences in life (school, work, family, friends) based on how one identifies can lead to brief moments of stress (sad, anxious) and unhealthy behaviors (smoking, drugs, drinking) as a way to cope. In fact, long term effects of stress can lead to other problems, such as, depression, heart problems or obesity, to name a few.
Individuals who are from diverse sexual orientations, gender identities or sex development often face challenges with social support, cultural competence and fair practices in the workplace and seeking out help by healthcare professionals who not only understand the unique issues of the individuals who identify differently in terms of sexual orientation, gender identity or sex development, but also, knows how to treat someone with a diverse background.
We are here to help! We will discuss what health issues impact individuals from a diverse sexual orientation, gender identity or sex development and how you can seek help here at findapsychologist.org.
What could happen to me?
It is important to acknowledge that what you are experiencing IS real. You are not being overly sensitive. Being on the receiving end of discrimination or in an atmosphere that promotes discrimination does not feel good. It affects your mental health.
Here are some facts about ways discrimination can impact your mental health1:
- Internalized homophobia may lead to eating disorders, high-risk sexual activity, substance abuse, and suicide
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) are twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide
- LGBT youth are twice as likely to be homeless
- Transgender and bisexual-identified people can feel isolated from the gay and lesbian community
- Transgender individuals are more likely to have mental health issues and attempt suicide
- Gay and Bisexual men are more likely to have eating disorders and body dissatisfaction
- Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese
- Intimate partner violence occurs at the same rate in same-sex relationships as heterosexual relationships
- Elderly LGBT individuals may experience isolation
Again, this information does not mean that you will experience these feelings or engage in unhealthy behaviors because you identify as gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex. This information is meant to communicate that we understand dealing with stress, either in your workplace and/or home life, based on how you identify really may impact your mental health.
What can I do?
So, what next? First, you are in the right place! We are grateful that you took the time to learn more about yourself by addressing your own mental health. Findapsychologist.org is a great place for you to begin to validate your feelings through the compassion of therapy. This website even helps you to find a psychologist who specializes in LGBT issues (see below).
Identifying an LGBT-friendly psychologist can serve as a bridge to begin to make the connections of how stress has impacted both your mind and body. Additionally, we have listed resources for you to work with healthcare providers, community advocacy and legal help to continue your self-advocacy as part of the LGBT community. Lastly, if you need help searching the findapsychologist.org database, please feel free to contact Catherine@nationalregister.org or call (202) 783-7663. We are here to help and support you.
Gay and Lesbian Medical Association: http://www.glma.org/
World Professional Association for Transgender Health: http://www.wpath.org/
Human Rights Campaign: http://www.hrc.org/
National LGBTQ Taskforce: http://www.thetaskforce.org/
National Center for Transgender Equality: http://transequality.org/
Lambda Legal: http://www.lambdalegal.org/
- S. Department of Health and Human Services (2012). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health. Retrieved from: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topicsobjectives2020/overview.aspx?topicid=25
Kristine M. Diaz, PsyD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine. Dr. Diaz recently became chair of the AAMC’s Axis Committee on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Sex Development.