Is Homosexuality a Disorder?

 

On several occasions I have been asked whether homosexuality is a disease. “Gay” is the term most people use to describe someone who is sexually or romantically attracted to someone of the same sex. Usually the words “gay” and “lesbian” are used to refer to homosexual men and women, respectively.

No one knows exactly why some people are gay. According to some experts, it is believed that homosexuality may be the result of genetics, social factors, or a combination of both. However, there is no scientific research to tell us exactly what makes a person sexually attracted to another person of the same sex.

Before 1973, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM (the book used by most mental health experts) considered homosexuality to be a mental illness. However, after many studies and research, it could not be determined what the “illness” or psychological disorder is that causes a person to be gay or to have a sexual orientation different from that of heterosexual individuals.

Dr. Evelyn Hooker conducted in-depth studies of this issue and never found a direct relationship between homosexuality and a psychological disorder. Her work was the cornerstone of an entire body of research that ultimately led to the removal of homosexuality from the DSM. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) no longer classified homosexuality as a disease.

There is no doubt that the society we live in raises many obstacles and barriers in the lives of individuals who are gay. Discrimination and other prejudices can have psychological and emotional consequences. According to studies published in the journal BMC Psychiatry, many gays and lesbians may be at increased risk for depression, drug addiction, and even suicidal behavior. It is not difficult to see connections between increased societal oppression and higher rates of mental and emotional distress.

Depression in gay people can be related to fear of rejection by family, society, coworkers, and friends. Some may also suffer from depression because of struggles associated with imposed morality and/or conflicts between an individual’s beliefs and desires. In addition, gay individuals may experience higher levels of anxiety and stress due to resistance shown by certain groups who maintain homophobic beliefs.

Homophobia as such is an irrational fear, prejudice, or discrimination towards gay people. This can take many forms; including but not limited to verbal harassment, bullying, assault, and murder. Homophobia is based on fear, unawareness, and ignorance.

If you are facing personal difficulties related to sexual orientation, seek out caring, empathic support. A licensed mental health professional may be of invaluable assistance in facilitating recovery from symptoms of emotional distress.

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