HomeBrainLGBTQ Addiction Factors: The Importance of Self-Esteem

LGBTQ Addiction Factors: The Importance of Self-Esteem

Person writing the word self-esteem in black with a red link underneath.

Lack of self-esteem is a serious problem – particularly when it leads to addiction.

Just under 40 percent of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults say they’ve been rejected by family members or close friends at some point in their lives due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Unfortunately, this rejection can have serious implications leading to complications including low self-esteem, mental health issues, and addiction.

Here’s a closer look at the phenomenon, along with how the right substance abuse treatment program can help remedy the problem.

The LGBTQ Self-Esteem Connection

While whopping 92 percent of LGBT people say that society is more accepting of them today than it was in the past, the fact remains that there are lingering — and potent — obstacles to acceptance.

Lee Swislow, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, told CBSNews.com, “It’s a combination of progress on so many grants and increased openness combined with so much work yet to be done…People are afraid to come out of the closet at work because they’re afraid that they won’t be accepted…It’s not like, ‘I’m not hiring you because you’re gay,’ it’s the subtle culture that’s created in a lot of workplaces in which heterosexuality is the norm and that has a chilling effect on gay people.”

Indeed, say experts, this rejection can have an ongoing effect on the health and mental health of LGBT individuals. Says Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence, “LGBT young people who were rejected by their families because of their identity have much lower self-esteem and have fewer people they can turn to for help. They are also more isolated and have less support than those who were accepted by their families.”

Where Addiction Fits In

What does all of this have to do with addiction? A lot, as it turns out. In fact, according to family substance abuse counselor Carole Bennett, M.A., low self-esteem is actually a “disposition that can lead to addiction.”

Specifically, individuals suffering from low self-esteem may find themselves turning to drugs and alcohol in an attempt to compensate. “Here is an easy, effortless way to take your lack of self-esteem or own self-worth and drink it away into blackout or smoke it, snort it, or shoot it into oblivion.”

However, words like “easy” and “effortless” are dangerously misleading ones as they pertain to drug and alcohol abuse. Because while they may serve as a temporary fix, they can ultimately lead to lifelong repercussions across everything from health to personal relationships to financial wellness.

Group of people meeting in a circle.

Treating low self-esteem is an important part of treating addiction. Group therapy can help.

The Self-Esteem Imperative

It’s already been established that LGBT individuals are particularly susceptible to low self-esteem. We also know that they’re more vulnerable to both depression and addiction while simultaneously facing unique obstacles to recovery.  This is why addressing low self-esteem in LGBTQ individuals is so important. Not only can it help them lead better, more fulfilling lives, but it can also serve as a preventative measure against both addiction and relapse.

Even better news? We know more now than ever about the effectiveness of treating the “whole” person in LGBT substance abuse rehabilitation by acknowledging the diversity of factors leading to addiction. Finding the right addiction treatment program can be the key to helping build self-esteem, promote recovery, and prevent relapse. To learn more about Harris House’s substance abuse treatment programs for LGBTQ people, contact us today.

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