Over the past few decades, research into the mental health of members belonging to sexual minorities and the LGBTQA+ community has increased exponentially. However, more recent studies have shown that there are significant disparities in mental health profiles of members belonging to different sexual orientations. Individuals who identify with different sexual orientations have their own experiences and struggles, which need to be investigated in depth.
One particular minority that tends to be overlooked in mental health research is the bisexual community. The number of articles that address bisexual mental health specifically is minuscule compared to the articles that broadly address sexual orientation and mental health (Persson and Pfaus, 2015). Individuals who identify as bisexual are commonly subsumed into the gay or lesbian category for research purposes, when in reality they face additional stressors that are specific to the bisexual identity and can put them at a higher risk for poor mental health (Chan and Operario, 2019). A study conducted by Jorm et al on the Australian population found that among homosexual and heterosexual groups, the bisexual group scored highest for measures of depression and anxiety symptoms. The researchers also found that bisexuals as a group had less positive support from family and more negative support from friends and peers (Jorm et al, 2002).
Bisexuality as a sexual orientation has faced a lot of stigmatization from both heterosexual and homosexual groups, as it is often falsely believed it is not a legitimate orientation. Bisexuals often experience identity struggles about their sexuality as they feel they are not accepted by either LGBTQ or the heterosexual community. They might feel pressured to conform to either the labels of ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ or straight, which is not a true reflection of their sexuality (Chan and Operario, 2019). Often this prejudice from the LGBTQIA+ community can also stem from the common misconception that bisexual individuals manage to avoid the widespread discrimination that affects other sexual orientations like lesbians or gays and still have access to heterosexual resources, which is not true. This lack of support from peers also results in many bisexuals not having access to the same support system as other members of the LGBTQ community, which can cause them to feel isolated.
Facing rejection from both homosexual and heterosexual communities can have detrimental effects on an individual’s self-identity and perception. A fear of social rejection may manifest hold many bisexual individuals back from freely expressing their sexual orientation and cause them to conceal it, which can play a role in developing anxiety and depression symptoms.
Hence, mental health in minorities like bisexuals is prone to be overlooked by both researchers and peers. It is vital to raise awareness about the stigma and struggles the bisexual community has to face and validate bisexuality as a legitimate sexual orientation. There is also a need for further in-depth research to investigate the mental stressors for bisexuals in order to combat the high rates of depression and anxiety in individuals.
- Persson, T.J, ; Pfaus, J.G (2015) Bisexuality, and Mental Health: Future Research Directions: Journal of Bisexuality. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/15299716.2014.994694
- Bostwick W. (2012). Assessing Bisexual Stigma and Mental Health Status: A Brief Report. Journal of bisexuality, 12(2), 214–222. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1080/15299716.2012.674860
- Chan, R.C.H., Operario, D. et al (2019) Bisexual individuals are at greater risk of poor mental health than lesbians and gay men: The mediating role of sexual identity stress at multiple levels. Journal of Affective Disorders. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.09.020
- Jorm F. A. et al (2002) Sexual orientation and mental health: results from a community survey of young and middle-aged adults. Br J Psychiatry. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.180.5.423