Gay Men and Mental Health; Being Gay is Not always Easy
Depression impacts almost everyone at one time or another. Traumatic experiences throughout childhood involving bereavement, neglect, or abuse can increase the chances of depression. According to the Archives of General Psychiatry1, the lifetime prevalence rates of major depressive disorders among gay men, bisexuals and lesbians is 71.4% compared to 38.2% for heterosexuals.
Gay men experience more mental health issues compared to heterosexual people because of the complexities in the development of their personality, plus learning how to cope with stressful environments.
It’s normal to visit the doctor to seek medication to deal with depression. Often there is little or no in-depth look at the causes, a referral to a counsellor, or other tools used to deal with depression. With little focus, it can take years to resolve it self, all the while also having to deal with the negative side effects of taking medication to treat the depression symptoms. It’s not unusual for this to have an adverse effect on self-esteem and identity, or the additional need of psychotropic medication to copy with the world. These antidepressants make it difficult to get an erection, to stay hard, and to ejaculate. The sexual frustration leads to more isolation, and further depression.
Doctors and medical experts see depression as a reaction to anxiety. While anxiety is usually not initially recognized, the results include social withdrawal and subsequent depression. A study in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry2 found gay and bisexual men have twice the rate of anxiety disorders as heterosexuals.
People who live full, active, social lives are rarely depressed. Social interactions with friends must be enjoyable, not just tolerated. Both anxiety and depression are major factors which impact happiness.
What to do about anxiety and depression
Recognizing the signs of anxiety and depression in its early stages is key. Anxiety and depression is much harder to resolve once a person becomes immobilized by their feelings. Seek help when you start to feel signs of either anxiety or depression. A counsellor who is familiar with gay men’s issues and gay culture can create a better outcome. If counselling doesn’t help, prescription medication could be used for treatment. As with all medications, it is best to take medication for as short of period of time as possible.
1 Bolton, Shay-Lee and Sareen, Jitender. (2001) Sexual Orientation and its relation to mental disorders and suicide attempts: Findings from a nationally representative sample. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 56(1), 35-43.
2 Prevalence of mental disorders, psychological distress, and mental health services use among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults in the United States. Cochran, Susan D.; Sullivan, J. Greer; Mays, Vickie M. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 71(1), Feb 2003, 53-61
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