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Addiction, Mental Health, and Bisexuality

People often lump lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex individuals into one group, referring to this population as the LGBTQI Community. Bisexual individuals constitute an important group within this larger community whose specific concerns often remain hidden or ignored. A majority of sexuality and mental health research combines people that identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual.  This erroneously assumes their rates of mental health problems are similar. In actuality, research conducted in 2008 found bisexual people report more unmet health and mental health care needs than both heterosexual and gay or lesbian people.

Research on bisexuality from The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found:

  • Of the top ten health issues for the bisexual community: Substance use and Alcohol use are #1 and #2 issues, respectively.
  • Bisexual women report the highest rates of alcohol use, heavy drinking, and alcohol-related problems compared to heterosexual and lesbian women.
  • Other key health issues include high risk sexual behavior (particularly the combination of substance/alcohol use and sex), depression and anxiety, low levels of social support, the lowest emotional well-being of any sexual orientation group, and higher levels of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts than heterosexuals, gay men, and lesbians.

Effective addiction treatment is critically needed for the bisexual community. Successful treatment should address the whole person, requiring an exploration of core issues underlying the abuse of drugs and/or alcohol. Providers of addiction treatment for the bisexual population should know and understand the key issues and barriers unique to this Community. Here are a few of these key obstacles:

  • Social misconceptions: Unfortunately, society makes a number of incorrect assumptions about bisexuality. For example, bisexual individuals are often thought of as promiscuous, unfaithful, sex addicted, or involved in threesomes. For many people, bisexuality is not seen as a legitimate and healthy sexual identity. Instead, bisexuals are typically deemed “confused” or “afraid to admit they’re really gay.” It can be very easy for bisexual individuals to internalize these negative social attitudes and beliefs.
  • Bisexual invisibility: Often, people say they finally feel like they belong once they reach the 12-Step rooms or enter addiction treatment. They feel enormous amounts of relief once they recognize they’re no longer alone. This feeling of acceptance allows people in recovery to move beyond long histories of isolation and loneliness into a sense of connectedness and feeling a part of something larger than themselves. Full recovery will not be possible if an individual continues to feels shame and a sense of loneliness surrounding their sexual identity. Many bisexual individuals do not find this kind of acceptance surrounding their sexual identity in part due to the small numbers of bisexual individuals openly out in society.
  • Multiple stigmatized identities: Bisexual individuals with addiction face multiple layers of rejection and stigmatization. These individuals may feel like they have no place to fit in; rejected from the heterosexual community (in the form of homophobia) and rejected from the gay and lesbian community (in the form of biphobia). Mono-sexism is the false belief that a person can only be gay or straight. Gay or lesbian identity is perceived to be less stigmatized than bisexual identity. On top of all these forms of rejection based on their sexuality, bisexual individuals with addiction also face the social stigmas of being an addict or alcoholic.

Individuals with addiction who struggle to understand or accept their own bisexual identity may find themselves unable to give up alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism. An important piece of self-acceptance may involve being out and open in all aspects of life.

An integral part of addiction treatment with New Hope Recovery Center’s New Hope with Pride program includes our full commitment to provide a safe and respectful environment for all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Intersex clients to recover from addiction. The New Hope with Pride program assists clients to fully embrace who they are, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and live a life free from addiction.  We have tailored this program for the unique needs of everyone in the LGBTQI Community and provide focused treatment for bisexual clients. If you want to find out more about New Hope Recovery Center you may contact us or call us at 773-883-3916.

Written by: New Hope Recovery Center