Dual Diagnosis in the LGBTQ+ Community

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The phrase “LGBTQ+” stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning. While members of this community have made much progress in the last generation in terms of being accepted and having more legal rights, they also experience a high number of cases of dual diagnosis. 

A Gallup poll reported that 4.5% of American adults identify as LGBTQ+. When the latest census estimates are included, the results suggest that approximately 11 million adults fall into that category. The increase in numbers comes primarily from the millennial population, which includes those born between 1980 and 1999. 

What Is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis refers to having an addiction to drugs or alcohol while simultaneously having at least one mental illness. The condition is also referred to as “co-occurring disorders”. The mental illnesses can include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Eating Disorders
  • Schizoaffective Disorder

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that 9.5 million adults deal with having a dual diagnosis. About half of all people who develop a substance use disorder also have at least one mental health condition. Often drug and alcohol abuse is used partly to help deal with unmanaged mental illness symptoms, creating a perpetual cycle that requires professional treatment for both conditions.  

Substance Abuse in the LGBTQ+ Population

Despite progress made in recent years, many people who are part of the LGBTQ+ population struggle with embracing their identities. They often deal with bigotry from individuals and are discriminated against in relation to employment, housing, religion, and parental rights. This type of situation can make turning to drug or alcohol use as a temporary coping technique develop into a substance use disorder. 

Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are more than 2.5 times as likely to misuse drugs or alcohol. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMH) found that within the transgender community, members end up with a substance use disorder at nearly four times the rate of cisgender people. Cisgender means a person whose gender identity matches that of their birth gender.

LGBTQ+ members in high school engage in the use of illegal drugs more often than others in their age group. For many underage people, a fear of coming out and the risk of rejection by family members and their peers drive them to begin abusing alcohol and drugs.

High Numbers of Mental Health Issues Effect the LGBTQ+ Community

While many people across the board develop dual diagnosis conditions, the toll taken among the LGBTQ+ community remains particularly high. Twice as many people who identify as LGBTQ+ develop mental health disorders compared to their heterosexual counterparts. They are more than 2.5 times as likely to suffer from conditions such as depression and anxiety.

The Trevor Project reports that 42% of LGBTQ+ youth considered attempting suicide in the past year. This number includes more than half of youth who identify as transgender or nonbinary. As well, 72% of this young community experience generalized anxiety disorder symptoms, while 62% deal with symptoms of major depressive disorder.

While the transgender community enjoys elevated acceptance levels in recent years, mental health issues still affect an adverse number of its members. Forty percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to only about 5% of the general population.

NAMH found that those who identify as transgender develop a mental illness at a rate of almost four times as often as cisgender individuals. Minority transgender individuals are more likely to attempt suicide than their white counterparts.

Is There Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Conditions?

Due to how common it is for individuals to experience both addiction and co-occurring mental health diagnoses, many treatment programs provide help for both. Programs ranging from detoxification to residential to sober living houses often provide their clients with dual diagnosis assistance. 

An individual who is unsure if they suffer from a co-occurring mental health issue may be able to receive a diagnosis upon initially joining a program. Others may need to speak to their doctor or a licensed counselor who can provide a full diagnosis. 

When speaking to a treatment program, be sure to ask if they treat dual diagnosis and let them know about any specific condition you deal with to make sure they can help. You can also ask if they offer follow-up programs or recommend after-care for dual diagnosis once you complete their program. 

When making inquiries to treatment programs, remember it’s your right to specifically ask if they are LGBTQ+ friendly. Many programs welcome clients from this community, but you might want to confirm it before making further plans.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in California

If you are struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol and also have a dual diagnosis, Clear Recovery Center can help. We offer detox, residential, and outpatient programs that treat people who deal with both addiction and mental health issues. Our Southern California location offers multiple types of therapy and holistic treatments to treat the whole person. If you would like to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program, contact Clear Recovery Center today. We are happy to answer any questions you have.

Last Updated on July 15, 2021

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