.

Anxiety and Coming Out For The Lesbian

Coming out can be a time of great stress for the lesbian. Research shows the benefits are worth it. Reach out for support if you need it.

 

Coming out, for the lesbian, can be a time of intense stress and anxiety. Once the decision is made and action taken,  quality of life seems to increase. Several studies point to higher self esteem, higher levels on happiness scales and greater social support than their heterosexuals report. Making the decision to come out is difficult for some, and for others, not so much. The key seems to be plugging into a supportive community where authenticity is supported and valued.

The more widely a woman disclosed her sexual orientation the less anxiety, more positive affectivity, and greater self-esteem was reported in recent research. Degree of disclosure to family, gay and lesbian friends, straight friends, and co-workers was related to overall level of social support in a recent study, with those who more widely disclosed reporting greater levels of support. Participants who more widely disclosed their sexual orientation were less likely to engage in anonymous socializing, had a larger percentage of lesbian friends, and were more involved in the gay and lesbian community.

A study found lesbians reported equally strong levels of mental health as their heterosexual sisters and higher self-esteem. While it’s not clear why lesbians displayed higher self-esteem, the authors speculate it may be that lesbians are more educated and mobile than their heterosexual sisters. As a consequence, the lesbian sisters may be more likely to join supportive communities that allow them to bolster their self-worth, the authors hypothesize.

Another study reported in the January 2001 American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (Vol. 71, No. 1), tested a structural equation model related to “outness” on 2,401 lesbian and bisexual women. In this work, researchers found that the more “out” lesbians and bisexual women were–as measured by self-identification as a gay or lesbian, number of years out and level of involvement in the lesbian or bisexual community–the less psychological distress they reported. These findings held true for a range of racial and ethnic subsamples including African-American, white European, Latina, Asian-American, Native American and Jewish women.The study–conducted by Rothblum, Jessica Morris, PhD, a private practitioner in Northampton, Mass., and Craig R. Waldo, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco Center for AIDS Prevention Studies and AIDS Research Institute–is the largest on lesbian mental health to date and is one of the only to look at the relationship of being out to lesbians’ mental health, Rothblum says.

Getting to “out” can be a time of stress and isolation. Supportive mental health therapy that allows the lesbian to process beforehand what her options are and how coming out will affect her in the long term is healthy and helpful. Such positive findings in research invalidate older assumptions that lesbians and gays experience a higher level of mental health problems than heterosexuals. This research is affirming and encouraging that lesbians who go through the process of coming out authentically can experience a high quality of life, plug into a supportive community and obtain happiness. The findings also support the idea that therapy that facilitates the coming-out process is good for lesbians’ mental health. “Such affirmative psychotherapy, provided during the coming out process, may prevent or buffer against subsequent mental health problems,” the authors write.

If you are struggling with coming out and are in need of the support that would help you live a more self actualized life, seek counseling with a qualified mental health professional. In my practice I provide warmth, support and a vision of the life that could be ahead of you after you take the step to come out. If you need that extra support please call me at 770-789-0847, email me at carolyn@growhealchange.com or see my website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com to make an appointment.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Anna Banguilan September 11, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Thank You Carolyn for writing this article. I have shared many moments with friends in stress about "who they truly are" and how to share that information with family and friends and I have shared their joy (and sometimes not) when they receive the responses from others. Once they are "out" it is as if they are lighter and this allows them to be open to now focusing on something else, not how they will be perceived. I will say that most Gay and Lesbian folk will migrate close to or stay in a big city for support and community. I believe it is important to reach small cities and towns to help others understand that it IS ok to be who you are, wherever you are. How do I know? I AM an example of someone who "came out" many years ago. I am happier, successful, I have a family with my partner of 14 years. Wonderful beautiful friends, gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, they live all over this world. My life is so full AND not from being a lesbian, it IS about BEing myself and being GREAT with that!!!
Carolyn Tucker MA, NCC, DCC, LPC September 12, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Anna thank you so much for your comment and for your beautiful story!! I am happy to know that your experience backs up my premise!
Min. Nataki Daniels September 13, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Thank you Carolyn for this article and for speaking to us tonight at Tabernacle Baptist Church. I am the "1" Lesbian (insider) in sandy springs that is out and it has changed my life tremendously. Thanks again, and I am going now to vote.
Carolyn Tucker MA, NCC, DCC, LPC September 14, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Thanks Nataki! I thoroughly enjoyed my time spent at Tabernacle Baptist Church and hope I will be invited back!

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »