It is natural for a human to fear things or people who are different. For many years, society has used these differences to justify its judgment and discrimination against people who are “non-tradition” such as the LGBTQ+ community, causing social anxiety disorder.
Each day, the community is accepting the differences we encounter in our daily life. However, the LGBTQ+ community still faces discrimination and stigma due to their sexual orientation, which leads to social anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Facts
If you are a gay, lesbian, bi, or trans person and you have experienced social anxiety due to your identity, you are not the only one. Many of the LGBTQ+ members face these challenges daily. Consider the following facts:
- According to a 2007 survey, students who are gay, lesbian, bi, or trans experienced bullying 10 times more than their non-trans schoolmates
- LGBTQ+ members are twice likely to consider suicide comparing to their heterosexual schoolmates
Trans people face the following mental challenges:
- Anxiety based on coming out
- Discrimination at a place of work or school
- Struggle to identify their “true” self
- Anticipation of possible harassment even before it happens
Cisgender or people whose gender is that assigned at birth grow up being accepted and their relationships acknowledged. However, this is different for trans people. The LGBTQ+ community is stigmatized because they fall out of traditions.
The need to observe one’s behaviors in social situations leads to social anxiety disorder in persons who may already be going through other kinds of mental challenges.
Development of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Growing up as an LGBTQ+ member, there are examples of how to form relevant relationships. It can simply be going left when others go right. Due to this, you learn to study the present situation and determine how safe you are as a true you. This manifests naturally due to persistent exposure to discrimination that leads to anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder – The Social Context
SAD develops in the teenage years, the period in which LGBTQ+ members first encounter discrimination about their gender. As time goes by, the hate and discrimination may be internalized and determine how you think about yourself.
If you experience lots of hate and stigma from the outside world, you may think you are unlovable and unwanted. This experience can have long-lasting negative impacts on your mental health.
What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder in the LGBTQ+ Community
There are no differences in factors that cause SAD in cisgender or heterosexual people and LGBTQ+ members. However, the social context surrounding LGBTQ+ members can be a trigger for worse social anxiety.
Being raised in an environment that is not welcoming for you, you may internalize that information over time. Feeling that you are not worthy can result in minority stress.
Minority stress refers to a high level of stress faced by stigmatized minority groups, in this case, the LGBTQ+ community. It can be caused by a lack of social support and low socioeconomic status. You may assume that you will not get enough support when you come out, hence learning to be silent about part of you which can lead to overwhelming anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Other Causes
LGBTQ+ members can also get SAD due to genetic and environmental factors just like cisgender and heterosexual people. Your vulnerability to heredity anxiety, upbringing, or early experiences increases the chances of being diagnosed with SAD.
Is it Important to Treat Social Anxiety?
If left unattended, a social anxiety disorder can prevent you from dating, networking, making friends, or pursuing your dreams. Lack of treatment for social anxiety puts you at a higher risk for different mental health issues.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Is it Treatable?
Fortunately, yes! There are various ways to treat social anxiety. Just like any mental health, it may take some time to figure out what treatment will work for you.
As a member of LGBTQ+ with social anxiety, you may find it difficult to seek help. It may be difficult to open up to your doctor because your social anxiety keeps you from talking to people and because you fear that the doctor might discriminate against you for being an LGBTQ+ member.
By talking to the doctor, you will be coming out to them in multiple ways which makes it even more difficult.
Related: Transgender Issues in Healthcare
Ways to Address Social Anxiety
Consult a Therapist
Consult a therapist who specializes in challenges that the LGBTQ+ community face. It’s advisable to seek help from someone who has experience in gender identity because your gender may be connected to your social anxiety disorder.
Remember, not all LGBTQ+ members have social anxiety, but being one of them can be a contributing factor.
Mindfulness is a simple and impactful way to ground your body when you are anxious. Some available apps and books can help you with your journey of addressing your social anxiety.
Your doctor will prescribe some medication to help with your condition. If already self-medicating, you should inform your doctor for further advice. Some people do not see medication as an option, but it’s an option in improving social anxiety.
It’s tempting to have a few drinks so that you can gather the courage to be in a social event that can cause you anxiety. Although it may help, you may develop an addiction.
If your social anxiety is severe, seek help from your doctor or a mental health specialist. The last thing you need on top of your anxiety is being an addict.
This is yet another tool to help with anxiety. Put on your favorite audiobook and run around along the beach or anywhere you feel right. This does not only help with anxiety but increases mental well-being. Walking can also help when done mindfully. Combine exercise with mindfulness for a greater outcome.
Social Anxiety Disorder – Final Thoughts
If you are battling a social anxiety disorder, what can you do? Talk to a trusted friend, consult a doctor, or download a mindfulness app to get help. Just don’t deal with it by yourself.