Dual diagnosis: Sexual minorities often bear the brunt of coexisting disorders - Sovereign Health Group
Articles / Blog
05-02-17 Category: Dual Diagnosis

In a society founded on age-old dictates and conventions, there is no doubt that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people face wider discrimination and experience acute stress at every stage of life. Studies show that these stigmatized sexual minoritiesmanifest higher levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health disorders. Bearing the brunt of deep-rooted social prejudice and battling major feelings of rejection, estrangement and harassment, many of them are left with no choice but to resort to alcohol and drugsto alleviate emotional or psychological pain,and often end up as addicts with a serious mental illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), say that the LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and suicide vis-à-vis their heterosexual peers.They are more likely to experience depressive episodes, anxiety, PTSD and other mental health issues. The CDC also reports that they are more vulnerable to chronic substance abuse,which is viewed as a means of self-medication.

Julie (name changed), 25,was born a biological male in a conservative Hispanic neighborhood in downtown Sacramento, California. Ever since she had a mind of her own, she always knew she was a woman trapped in a man’s body. Severe gender identity crisis, emotional upheavals and undue stress from trying to come to terms with her sexuality marked her early days. Cross-dressing was the only way she could escape from the harsh reality of life in her conservative neighborhood. While still in university, the easy availability of heroin, meth and alcohol on the campus made her momentarily forget her never ending battle with her sexuality. But, as soon as the effect of intoxicants would wear off, she was back to her former unbearable condition. Her distraught attempts to self-medicate her own mental agony plunged her into the depths of addiction.

In no time, Juliewas hooked onto heroin while partying with like-minded friends in the gay district of New York City. Most of her drag buddies who were high on hallucinogens and slavesof binge drinking echoed her sentiments. They too had undergone similar traumain their lives. Substance abuse was not only about a swift way to muffle their sorrows but also a way to exert their identity of being part of a new subculture.

At last, Juliediscovered what she perceived to be love and acceptance. But, it came at aterrible cost. The drugs amplified her existing misery and multiplied her woes tenfold. She eventuallylost her family, old friends, dignity andsources of income only to become a prostitute to sustain her addiction.

Julie is not alone in this struggle. She is one of the millions of Americans who face stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity on a regular basis.According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI),an estimated 20-30 percent of LGBTQ individuals abuse substances, compared to about 9 percent of the general population. Also, a significant 25 percent of LGBT people abuse alcohol as against just 5-10 percent of the general population.

Misunderstanding, misinformation and stigma, reinforced through the dictates of traditional societies, in addition to puritanicalreligious beliefs and discriminatory practices are the major reason, which drives people to such extreme coping mechanisms. Therefore, such a situation makes it even more crucial for LGBTQ community to have access to mental health and substance abuse treatment.

Sensitivity is key to treat dual diagnosis in sexual minorities

Sexual minorities often end up becoming their own enemies because their mental health and well-being areconstantly under attack from various quarters. It is an unfortunate and inevitable fact of life that the fear of coming out together with the high odds of facing discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identities can trigger chronic stress and suicidal tendencies. Moreover, in a bid to escape from reality, they often resort to alcohol or drug abuse.

According to a 2016 study published in the medical journalJAMA Internal Medicine, delivering patient-centered care to the LGBTQ community requires a mandatory understanding of the psychosocial and behavioral determinants of their unique health problems as their sexual orientation can have a significant impact on multiple aspects of health. Psychological distress is a major concern afflicting sexual minorities than heterosexuals, which is a reflection of the pain and experience of being in a stigmatized minority in society. The study also suggested that lesbians, gays and bisexuals engaged in excessive cigarette smoking and greater consumption of alcohol.

Although LGBT rights and way of life are gaining wider acceptance in American society, efforts must be made to ensure that they are not simply limited to being on paper. Doctors and rehabilitation specialists can help such patients by creating non-discriminatory environments that are inclusive and supportive of sexually marginalized communities. The need of the hour is to provide unbiased counseling to help them combat their stresses and strains.

Studies show that the prejudice against the LGBTQ community is the major reason for the high rates of substance abuse and mental health problems. That is whyheterosexual healthcare providers need to realize that sexual minorities have a unique set of needs which theycould take for granted. While treating LGBT patients with dual disorders, physicians need to develop a greater sensitivity and non-judgmental approach that will encourage community members to come out and seek regular professional help.

Fortunately, dual diagnosis is curable

Mental health and substance abuse often bump into each other at a very complex juncture because people are unaware that they are abusing substances to escape from the worrisome reality looming over their heads. On the surface, they might appear very distinct but in reality, they feed on each other and often victims find themselves sucked into the whirlpool of dual diagnosis without any clue of what is happening.A careful assessment is needed to establish the existence of both disorders, but it might be difficult because the symptoms of one disorder can mimic another’s. The need of the hour is regular care from trained physicians and customized therapies to help a comorbid patient avail the benefits of dual diagnosis treatment.

It is important to understand what dual diagnosis is, and seek medical help in case of addiction to any substance and a concurring occurrence of any mental disorder.Sovereign Health of San Clemente, California offers a variety of customized dual diagnosis residential treatment options to treat the person holistically. These programs are specifically designed to help individuals recover from the dual disordersthrough integrated interventions after a rigorous examination of the underlying health conditions. Patients can opt for individual and group psychotherapy, or alternative therapeutic activities to regain control of their lives.

If you or your loved one is suffering from co-occurring disorders, it is imperative to take the necessary medical help before matters go out of control. If you belong to an LGBTQ community and are struggling to cope with a co-occurring disorder, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know about the causes of dual diagnosis and most effective dual diagnosis recovery programs to treat them at the earliest. Whether you are looking for dual diagnosis treatment centers in California or at a place closer home, we have facilities in all major places in the country. Our dual diagnosis residential treatment facilities in California are among the best in the nation.

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