Sexual orientation refers to the personal identification of being straight, gay, lesbian or bisexual. Some people identify as asexual, meaning that they are not sexual at all. Others might identify as pansexual -- with the potential to be attracted to anyone, regardless of placement on the spectrum of gender. This assumes that gender is more than the rigid categories of male and female, adding even greater depth to sexual identity. Research indicates that the complexities of sexual orientation are intricately connected to the experience of anxiety.
Sexual diversity in the Unites States has historically been the subject of hate and prejudice. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that homophobia is detrimental to physical and mental health. Anxiety is a result of fear for physical safety, rejection and economic stressors -- housing and employment discrimination, for instance. Anxiety and other mental health struggles often lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse, unsafe sex and even suicidal ideation, according to the CDC.
As with many identity issues, confusion about sexual orientation can heighten anxiety, according to psychiatrist Loren A. Olson in his article for Psych Central titled "Concealed Sexual Orientation Is Like an Abscess." You may be unsure of your sexual identity and of yourself overall. Perhaps you might feel as though you don't have a place in society because of it. If you do find a certain sexual orientation applicable to your own preference, you may hesitate to disclose the truth due to fear of stigma. The immense amount of effort needed to conceal this part of yourself can induce anxiety. Dr. Olson states that it requires "constant vigilance, and behavioral self-editing."
Lack of Support
Social stigma often leads to rejection by family and friends for those who do decide to disclose their sexual orientations, leading, in turn, to limited social support and isolation. Religious communities and other cultural institutions may also refuse support and services to those with undesirable sexual orientations. For adolescents, this can even result in homelessness if their parents force them out of their homes. People need familial and community support in order to thrive, states Dr. Olson, and those without it are at risk of lowered self-esteem, depression and anxiety.
Sexual orientation is not known to cause anxiety, reports Youthbeyondblue.com, a resource for adolescents struggling with depression and anxiety. Being the target of homophobia can put you at risk, however. Youthbeyonblue.com encourages individuals facing hate due to their sexual orientations to take care of themselves carefully. This includes reaching out to a counselor or therapist, joining a peer support group, seeing a doctor, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet and getting adequate rest.
- British Journal of Psychiatry: Sexual Orientation and Mental Health: Results From A Community Survey of Young and Middle-Aged Adults; Anthony F. Jorm et al.
- JAMA Psychiatry: Is Sexual Orientation Related to Mental Health Problems and Suicidality in Young People?: David M. Fergusson, PhD et al.
- American Journal of Public Health: Dimensions of Sexual Orientation and the Prevalence of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in the United States: Wendy B. Bostwick, PhD et al.
- Youthbeyondblue.com: Depression and Anxiety In Young People Who Are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex (GLBTI)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Stigma and Discrimination
- PsychCentral: Concealed Sexual Orientation is Like an Abscess: Loren Olson, MD
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