Issues in Depth

Coping with Depression and Anxiety in the LGBTQ+ Community

All of us are currently in the midst of a pandemic, past the period of survival mode and into chronic ongoing safety focused daily living. That is, we are all trying to get through each day the best way we can while caring for ourselves, families and friends as mental health difficulties rise.  

Although we are all facing the same crisis, different communities have issues that are particular to them. The LGBTQ+ community has special challenges that may be creating higher levels of depression and anxiety that are not being addressed which have to do with the issues the community faces. Historically, those in the community traditionally have higher levels of depression and anxiety and higher levels of drug and alcohol abuse as we try to cope with our lives with often hostile or rejecting environments. 

For many of us this pandemic can be a trigger for the fears and anxieties that harken back to the days when the AIDS crisis was raging. The community felt isolated and ostracized because of a virus no one understood and, like now, the medical profession had few answers. In those days the community came together to take care of its own to provide the help and support needed to care for those who were sick and pushing on a rejecting system in many ways to find treatments that would work. Small and large nonprofits organized their resources toward these goals  

Today, because this virus is affecting everyone globally, many LGBTQ+ people have become more isolated from each other and end up alone trying to cope with issues particular to dealing with hostile families, rejecting friends and/or discrimination at work. These issues coupled with the lack of support can spark intense anxiety, panic and depression. This is often due to a lack of contact and an inability to use the usual social outlets like going to the clubs, sites like Grindr, hooking up, dating and hanging with friends that usually relieve tension and isolation. Being forced to live with a family that rejects your life can be especially difficult. 

Concerns over sexual identity, coming out, problems with family, friends, work or relationships don’t go away simply because there is a larger health crisis. In addition, trans members of the community face their own issues that range from where to get the hormones and medical care they need to the lack of group information for those in the middle of or seeking support for a change. In addition, People of Color, an often forgotten part of the community, can face severe problems that exacerbate and intensify the difficulties involved.

Feeling depressed can range from being depressed that you were ghosted by someone you liked to, “I can’t get out of bed and maintain my life.” Depression can start over something small and then progress because you get hit with one loss after another. It’s important to keep an eye out on your moods so that if you have trouble maintaining daily life like eating, sleeping, showering, getting up you know you need help. Feeling depressed these days is a part of the helplessness we feel over losing control of our lives. However, when we lose a loved one, a job, a home, or have little connection to others and feel we are alone depression can get worse.  

Anxiety too can range from worry to panic so that we can’t stop thinking the worst will happen or we can’t calm down and physically feel symptoms of racing heart difficulty breathing or a feeling that we might die.  

The important thing to remember if you are having any of these troubles is that you are not alone. The community and other LGBTQ+ people can provide resources that can help. There are many organizations that we can turn to for help and/or support to understand and cope with these challenges. These feelings are normal during this crisis time but when they impact the functioning of your life it’s time to get help. 

Identity House can help. LGBTQ+ counselors like you can relate to you through safe telecounseling and provide direct help or resources.

Lee Zevy is a Gestalt therapist and one of the founders of Identity House. One of her greatest joys is seeing the continuation and strength of Identity House after so many years, and to continue to meet the most interesting and concerned peers who give of their valuable time and energy to bring comfort to LGBTQ+ people both locally and from the far reaches of the globe.
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