Physical and Mental Health For LGBTQ+ Youth
Stress affects a person physically just as much as mentally. Physical symptoms of stress include
- low energy;
- upset stomach including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea;
- aches, pains, and tense muscles;
- chest pain and rapid heartbeat;
- insomnia; frequent colds and infections;
- loss of sexual desire and/or ability;
- nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet;
- dry mouth and difficulty swallowing;
- clenched jaw and grinding teeth.
Added to the wildly known fact that LGBTQ+ people have a higher chance of being affected by mental health issues than their heterosexual peers, they also have a higher risk of physical health issues as they grow older due to stress. One big concern is cardiovascular disease(s). In the short term, anxiety increases your breathing and heart rate, concentrating blood flow to your brain, where you need it.
This very physical response is preparing you to face an intense situation. If it gets too intense, however, you might start to feel lightheaded and nauseous. An excessive or persistent state of anxiety can have a devastating effect on your physical and mental health.
Experiencing discrimination, harassment, and victimization as a child causes internalized homophobia and identity concealment, which can increase stress, anxiety, and depression. All of this affects your heart. Repeated incidents involving these stressors can impair the stress response system, altering the individual biologically.
Within the educational system,
LGBTQ+ youth also experience more bullying and tend to be the victims of violence. According to data from the 2015 national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, 34% were bullied on school property and 28% were experiencing cyber bullying. LGBTQ+ students are less likely to attend school than their heterosexual peers due to safety concerns, which affects other areas of the student’s life.
These negative events can also happen within the LGBTQ+ person’s own home. Families, however, may not initially understand how impactful their words and actions can be on this young person’s life. Having their family members treat them poorly can be extremely damaging to their self-confidence and how they view themselves. Parental rejection can cause the child to be more likely to have mental health issues, which can manifest into physical health concerns. Teens who face this are 8x more likely to attempt suicide, and 4x more likely to have severe depression.
In general, marginalized groups as a whole may be at greater risk for mental and physical health problems later in life. Research on this is very limited and needs to be investigated further. More research is necessary to understand how these traumatic events influence an LGBTQ+ person physically later in life. The more stress endured as a child, the higher chance they have of expressing signs of a mental disorder. For an LGBT youth, they are experiencing stress in every aspect of their lives. Whether it be at school, home, or online- there is a persistent discrimination because of their gender identity.