Studies show mental disorder prevalence in the LGBT community is higher than in the heterosexual one, and lesbians are hit by mental disorders particularly hard. There is a conceptual framework to grasp the high prevalence in terms of minority stress. The connection between stress and mental illness is undeniable. Lesbians are faced with bias, stigma, and discrimination,which all contribute to a hostile and stressful environment that leads to mental health issues.
The framework experts speak of describes stress processes, including expectations of rejection, the experience of prejudice events, hiding and concealing, ameliorative coping processes, and internalized homophobia.
The study of lesbians’ mental health has been made more complex by the fact that homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder during the early 1970s. This classification had been removed by the time the APA published the second edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it left its mark on the mental health of lesbians because of claims that they were more likely to suffer from mental illness than straight women. So it’s something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Recent studies on stress have been concerned with external conditions or events that are taxing to lesbian women and overwhelm them, thereby potentially inducing mental illness. Lesbians are under intensemental, emotional, even physical pressure. They are equally affected by general life stressors such as death of a loved one, job loss, or physical illness and by specific stressors like homophobia, bias, prejudice, and lesbophobia. These stressors combine to produce higher incidences of mental disorders like anxiety disorder and depression. The third cause of stress is sexism, which all women must battle with even today, and it is a stressor added to the other two. The three compound to a point where gay women can start feeling overwhelmed.
Lesbian youths show higher rates of substance use or addiction, major depression, and generalized anxiety disorder. Lesbians with same-sex partners aged 15 to 55 report higher rates of anxiety and mood disorders, substance use disorders, and thoughts of suicide. Lesbians also tend to use mental health services more often than straight women do.
Data of the American Psychiatric Association show lesbian women actually report higher levels of self-esteem than straight and bi women. What is more, the extent of mental illness is far from pathological in this group. At any rate, studies show a need for better psychological treatment for gay women and men, an observation that overlaps with the recommendation of the U.S. Surgeon General in his report on health and sexuality.