Anxiety Disorder in LGBTQ+ Students
This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.
Everyone has felt anxious at times: before an important test, when you have to make an announcement in school. The feeling can vary, but we’ve all experienced that pit in your stomach accompanied by insatiable worry. But for someone with an anxiety disorder, that feeling doesn’t go away. According to a study published by the National College Health Assessment, which examined data from 125,000 students from more than 150 colleges and universities, almost half the students surveys reported overwhelming anxiety in the last year.
“I don’t want to go to college… I just want to go to sleep.” – Anonymous, Junior
While exploring my topic during the preliminary stages of this project, I noticed there is a severe lack of research and resources to aid members of the LGBTQ+ community that suffer from anxiety disorder. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry found that homosexual men reported almost twice the rate of anxiety disorders as their heterosexual peers. In high school, a time when many students are developing their identities, it is essential to provide education and support networks for students who may be simultaneously struggling with anxiety.
There are many factors that contribute to anxiety in LGBTQ+ students. Some of these include…
- Minority Stress
- “Minority Stress” is a term used to describe high levels of specific stress associated the discrimination faced by minority groups. The degree to which an individual is affected by minority stress is directly related to both internal and external homophobia.
- Microaggressions are acts that reinforce stigma towards a minority group. Microaggressions are damaging to the development of a healthy self-image and can even contribute to disorders such as anxiety or depression.
- Coming Out/ Cultural Acceptance
- For some students, accepting who they are can be a huge step. The coming out process is often very emotional and stressful, and these feelings are only amplified if the student is not in a supportive and accepting community.
“[My sister] and I both came out to [our parents] at around the same time. She, as pansexual, and me, as transgender. The difference was that I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in middle school… We talked about it and even though we were coming out to the exact same family, she knew our parents were liberal and would accept us… But for me, it felt like the ground was going to swallow me whole.” – Mikey, Sophomore
Negative social perceptions of anxiety disorder can contribute to insecurities in students, both queer and straight, and can, in some cases, prevent them from getting the help they need. This is why it is essential to educate students, teachers, and families on the significance of general anxiety disorder.
This is a video that can be used to teach school communities about general anxiety disorder. It covers symptoms, how it affects LGBTQ+ students, and provides resources for students who want to learn more or feel like they need help.
The first step to helping LGBTQ+ students with anxiety disorders is accepting them. Please take a moment to take this short poll on how accepting you believe your school community is. After, please reflect on your answers and brainstorm ways to improve your community in the comments section below.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org
- CDC on LGBTQ+ Health: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/about.htm
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America: https://www.adaa.org/