Research has indicated that more LGBTQ+ individuals seek mental health treatment than their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. There is a great amount of stigma and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ individuals from society, workplaces/schools, and their families. This can affect one’s mental health and self-esteem. At times, mental health support may be helpful for sexual orientation or gender identity-related issues.
Sexual orientation refers to patterns of romantic or sexual attraction to others (e.g., to men, women, both, etc.). Most people know from a young age who they are attracted to, however for some, it takes a longer time to make sense of their sexual orientation. At times, individuals exploring these aspects of sexuality experience confusion, stress, fear, rejection, and shame. Hence, it is important to provide a safe space for individuals going through this process of exploration. Some individuals may also experience immense anxiety when coming out to family and friends, making this a difficult and distressing process.
Here is a website that explains and provides tips on making sense of sexuality: https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/sexual-identity
Gender identity refers to an individual’s internal and personal sense of their gender. This could be on the binary of male or female, or more fluid (e.g.,non-binary, gender-fluid, or anywhere in between). Gender identity may or may not match with one’s biological sex. Transgender (or “trans”, for short) people have a gender identity that differs from their biological sex.
When trans individuals experience this mismatch between biological sex and gender identity, there could be immense distress and unease. This is gender dysphoria. Individuals with gender dysphoria have a strong desire to live a life that aligns with their gender identity. Hence, they may change their name, pronouns, the way they look, behave, or express themselves, to match their gender identity. The distress from this mismatch can become so intense that it triggers depression or anxiety, resulting in a detrimental impact on the individual’s life. This is often realised during adolescence but for some is not explored until adulthood.
Here’s a useful resource for parents of trans youth: https://www.congregaytion.com/ill-walk-with-you
Therapy for LGBTQ+ Individuals
TOC aims to tailor our service to empower LGBTQ+ individuals in all areas and stages of their life. During your session, you will be able to speak freely and confidentially with a clinician who is an ally, and familiar with the issues individuals with diverse sexualities and gender identities may face. Our clinicians continuously train and keep themselves up to date with the current issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
Here are some issues individuals struggling with sexual orientation or gender identity may face, that a clinician at TOC can help with:
- General distress, discomfort or shame about one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, physical appearance, or behaviour
- Low self-esteem
- Social isolation or withdrawal from one’s community
- Depression or anxiety
- Impulsive and risky behaviours
- Hiding and concealing one’s authentic identity, and related fear and shame
- Coming out
- Building connections and finding one’s community
- Transition (social or medical)
Treatment will look like creating a safe space to voice your thoughts and feelings openly, explore and make sense of your sexual orientation or gender identity, address fears and concerns, preparation and support through the process of coming out or transition, and validation of your identity. Therapy can also help with coping with any discrimination, stigma, bullying, or relationship difficulties you are facing. Talk to Alex C Koen, Dr Siew Soon, Lucie Ramet, Dr Cherie Chan or Sheyla Hardy