For an in-depth look, the menu below offers information about the topics we cover. Please click on any subject to learn more.
- Alcohol Addiction
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, almost 18 million Americans abuse alcohol. Each year, more than 100,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. Alcohol is a factor in nearly half of all US traffic deaths. In addition to these horrifying statistics, alcohol abuse causes strained relationships, financial difficulties and numerous medical and mental health problems.
In the LGBTQ+ community, research suggests that alcohol abuse and dependence occurs at even higher rates than within the mainstream population. Independent studies collectively support the estimate that alcohol abuse occurs up to three times more in the LGBTQ+ population. To paint an even clearer picture, it’s estimated that up to 45 percent of the LGBTQ+ community abuses alcohol.
Within the LGBTQ+ community, the stress and difficulty of dealing with heterosexism and discrimination can lead many to alcohol abuse. Combined with a tradition of socializing in bars and nightclubs, the risk of developing problematic drinking behavior is heightened.
Symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependence include:
- Development of a tolerance to alcohol, resulting in the need to drink more to achieve intoxication or the desired effect
- More alcohol is consumed in large quantities over a longer time period than intended
- A desire to reduce the amount of drinking, or efforts to reduce or quit drinking are unsuccessful
- A large amount of time is spent drinking, thinking about drinking or nursing hangovers
- Continuing to drink despite understanding the link between alcohol use and specific health problems
- Arrests or legal problems related to driving while drinking
- Important work, social or family activities are neglected or reduced as the result of drinking
Alcohol abuse issues can be addressed in a variety of ways. Medical intervention, education, individual and group therapy and social support are factors shown to be most effective in addressing alcohol issues. Pride Institute has been helping LGBTQ+ people recover from alcohol abuse and dependence since 1986.
Most people have experienced anxiety at some point in their life. It’s an unpleasant feeling that manifests both physically and emotionally. But because symptoms are often subtle, many don’t recognize that what they are feeling is anxiety, so it’s commonly misinterpreted as a physical ailment.
Sometimes anxiety can cause a panic attack, which usually develops abruptly and typically reaches a peak within ten minutes. Anxiety is also experienced as a combination of a pounding heart, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath or a sensation of choking.
Other symptoms of anxiety include:
- Hyperventilation (uncontrollable rapid breathing)
- Pounding heart
- Muscle twitching
- A sense that things are not real
- A sense of feeling disconnected from yourself
- An urge to avoid a situation, place or person
Excessive anxiety or worry can indicate an anxiety disorder that requires treatment in order to be resolved. Anxiety disorders can be treated with medication, talk therapy, education and other methods. Pride Institute has been helping LGBTQ+ people with anxiety since 1986.
- Bipolar Disorder
Unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to perform everyday tasks are attributions of bipolar disorder. Symptoms are often misinterpreted as separate issues rather than being recognized as parts of a larger problem, making the the diagnosis difficult to spot.
Bipolar disorders usually develop during the late teen or early adult years, with at least half of all cases beginning before age 25. Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may develop symptoms later in life.
Symptoms of bipolar disorder are far different from the normal ups and downs that many people experience. Often more severe in nature, they can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance and even suicide. But there is hope because it can be treated.
Like diabetes or heart disease, bipolar disorder is a long-term illness that must be carefully managed throughout a person’s life. Like diabetes or heart disease, for example, it may take some lifestyle adjustments, but people with this illness lead full and productive lives every day.
- Body Image Issues
At one point or another, most people struggle with body image. But when these typical concerns graduate to becoming problematic is when they lead to disordered eating, multiple plastic surgeries or reach levels of obsession. These behaviors exist on the spectrum of addictive behaviors and range in intensity on a continuum of being a bothersome problem to severe or becoming a life-threatening difficulty.
Disordered eating or a problematic body image can co-occur with other addictions or surface as a new problem during recovery. As with a drug or other behavior problem, an unhealthy focus on body image serves as a different way to avoid the things that lead to drug abuse or other problems.
Developing a healthy body image is a process that’s not unlike treating other addictive behaviors as a person works to understand and modify beliefs that have little factual basis. As with any behavioral concern, the individual must first identify the problem, not to mention the triggers for body focus, while also cultivating adaptive coping skills.
For body image difficulties, any or all of the following may surface — it’s noted that although they are related and the symptoms often overlap, body image issues are different than eating disorders:
- Severely restricting caloric intake
- Eating only certain or safe foods; eating with only plastic utensils
- Hoarding food, cookbooks or recipes
- Weighing oneself multiple times per day
- Mood and behavior changes depending on their weight, inches around the waist, size of pants or positive feedback on appearance
- Self-esteem is dependent on looks or how they feel about their body on that particular day
- Pinching or measuring one’s body
- Binging, characterized as eating an excessive amount of food in a short period of time
- Purging, which can materialize with self-induced vomiting, eating then restricting calories for days, laxative abuse or excessive exercising
- Frequent comments about being ugly, fat or “not one of the beautiful people”
- Multiple plastic surgeries
- Sudden weight loss or gain, chipmunk cheeks or a callus develops on the index finger or knuckles
Body image problems can progress from going on a diet to a full-blown eating disorder or body dysmorphia in a relatively short period of time. Cultivating a healthy body image helps people feel more secure in themselves, their relationships and can help navigate conflicts or daily stressors more effectively.
- Crystal Meth Addiction
Crystal meth is a formulation of the drug methamphetamine, a stimulant that can be ingested nasally, smoked or injected. Initial effects of the drug include increased energy, a sense of euphoria and increased libido. Because these feelings are pleasurable, the stage is often set for addictive behavior as users attempt to recreate that first high by continuing to use the drug.
Sadly, it doesn’t take long before crystal meth’s negative effects on brain chemistry are apparent. The first negative effects are commonly depression and anxiety. Anxiety soon becomes associated with panic attacks and eventually, delusional paranoia.
Compulsive sexual activity often accompanies crystal meth use because of the drug’s tendency to increase libido and decrease one’s inhibitions. This deadly combination results in compulsive sexual behavior characterized by impaired decision-making of what are safer sexual behaviors. The result often leads to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis B and C and syphilis.
Crystal Meth is a growing concern in many communities across the country. But for the LGBTQ+ community in particular, crystal meth is an urban issue that has increased dramatically in recent years.
Indications of a problem with crystal meth use may include:
- Increased feelings of anxiety and agitation
- Development of extreme paranoia, often accompanied by delusional beliefs
- Inability to sleep, going for days on little or no sleep
- Increasing tolerance that requires higher doses or more frequent use to achieve the desired effect
- Injecting the drug
- Noticeable increase of risky behaviors, sexual promiscuity and unsafe sexual practices
- Physical signs that include deteriorating oral health (meth mouth), high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and itchy skin or a sensation of insects crawling on the skin surface
Crystal meth abuse, and the risky behaviors that accompany it, can be successfully treated with chemical addiction treatment. A few successful methods in recovery include education, therapy and social support grounded in the philosophy of 12-Steps.
Depression is more than simply feeling a little down, sad or hopeless for a few days. It’s a condition that dramatically affects a person’s mood, body and thoughts.
Symptoms of depression may include:
- A persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
- Feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities that have been previously enjoyed, including sex
- A decrease in energy, increased fatigue or feeling slowed down
- Difficulty with memory, concentration or making decisions
- A change in sleep patterns, either sleeping less or sleeping more
- A change in eating patterns resulting in weight loss or weight gain
- Irritability or restlessness
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to medical treatment, including headaches, digestive disorders or chronic pain
While experiencing feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness can be a normal part of life, clinical depression lasts longer than a few days. It can span months and years, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. There is hope in treatment.
- Drug Abuse
Whether or not they have intrinsic medical value, using drugs for nonmedical purposes is considered drug abuse.
Almost all drugs have central nervous system (CNS) effects, producing changes in mood, levels of awareness or perceptions and sensations. Some drugs are more likely to lead to uncontrolled use than others, suggesting a possible hierarchy of drugs that are likely to be abused.
When compared with the mainstream population, studies indicate that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to use drugs, and as a result, have higher rates of substance abuse that are more likely to continue into later life. Although LGBTQ+ people have been shown to use all types of drugs, certain drugs appear to be more popular in the LGBTQ+ community than in the mainstream community.
For example, gay men are significantly more likely to have used marijuana, stimulants, sedatives, cocaine and party drugs like Ecstasy, Ketamine and GHB than men in the general population. The use of crystal methamphetamine in gay and bisexual men has increased dramatically in recent years.
Few studies have thoroughly examined drug use in the lesbian community. But what has been uncovered suggests that drug abuse in lesbians occurs at higher rates than heterosexual women and could potentially equal the rates of occurrence in gay men.
Excluding alcohol and crystal methamphetamine, the following types of drugs are commonly abused by members of the LGBTQ+ community:
Stimulants most commonly used in the LGBTQ+ community include cocaine, crack, and crystal methamphetamine. The physiological effect of cocaine is similar to crack and crystal meth, but cocaine metabolizes very rapidly — its duration is approximately 20 to 80 minutes compared to four to 12 hour duration of crack and crystal meth. Desired effects of stimulants include anorectic effects, increased alertness, mood elevation and increased sexual arousal.
Depressants frequently abused by LGBTQ+ people include Xanax, Valium and alcohol. In low doses, depressant drugs relieve anxiety, while in moderate doses they induce sleep. In higher doses, however, they cause anesthesia, and eventually, death.
Marijuana is abused by a large number of LGBTQ+ individuals. Inhalation of the smoke of a marijuana cigarette is followed within minutes by feelings of well-being, relaxation and tranquility in most people. However, those prone to being apprehensive, depressed or angry may become more so under the influence of marijuana.
Party or designer drugs such as Ecstasy, Ketamine, GHB were originally used by gay and bisexual men who were participating in rave-like events called circuit parties — huge parties held across the country forming a circuit of events and attended by many of the same people. In recent years, these drugs have transitioned to weekend dance clubs and other recreational uses. Involvement in party drugs and dance venues involve a wide range of motivations. Most participants report that their involvement is related to increasing self-acceptance and the desire to belong to an accepted group.
Polysubstance abuse occurs when a person abuses several substances in a relatively short period of time. Using multiple substances is often an attempt to enhance the effect of a single drug to achieve a higher high. At other times, a drug will be used to counteract the effects of a previously taken drug, such as taking sedatives when coming off of stimulants.
Indications of a substance abuse problem may include:
- Increased feelings of anxiety, agitation or depression
- The development of extreme paranoia, often accompanied by delusional beliefs
- Sleep disturbance as evidenced by either the inability to sleep or excessive sleep
- Increased tolerance that requires higher doses or more frequent use to achieve the desired effect
- Withdrawal symptoms such as tremors, body aches, nausea and headaches when stopping use of the substance
Substance abuse can be successfully treated. Education, therapy and social support grounded in the tradition of 12-Step philosophy are a few of the methods shown to be successful in recovery.
- Opioid Addiction
Chronic use of opioids can result in tolerance for the drugs, which means that users must take higher doses to achieve the same initial effects.
Long-term use also can lead to physical dependence and addiction where the body adapts to the presence of the drug, and withdrawal symptoms occur if use is reduced or stopped. Symptoms of withdrawal include: restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goosebumps and involuntary leg movements. Taking a large single dose of an opioid could cause severe respiratory depression that can lead to death.
Studies have shown that properly managed medical use of opioid analgesic drugs is safe and rarely causes clinical addiction, characterized as compulsive and uncontrollable use of drugs. Taken exactly as prescribed, opioids can be used to manage pain effectively.
- Sexual Anorexia
While professionals don’t agree on a term that adequately describes the state of depriving oneself of sex, sexual anorexia is the flip side of sexual compulsivity. Assessing the presence of sexual avoidance, in addition to the presence of sexual compulsivity, is important.
For some, obsessive thoughts are the problem, while other individuals engage in sexual avoidance or have a strong aversion to sexual situations. In some cases, the time between having sexual contact and engaging in a significant relationship can be years. In a few circumstances, people often say that they haven’t had sex in a decade or more.
The issue for many is not the lack of sex, but the motivating factor for why they have not had sex. Thoughts and feelings of shame, fear and hopelessness often shape why a person avoids sexual contact. Often the underlying cause for sexual avoidance is similar to the cause for sexual compulsivity.
- Sexual Compulsivity and Sexual Health
When someone has a healthy understanding of their sexual value, preferences, attractions, history and behaviors, they can recognize the need to explore their sexuality in a positive manner in an affirming environment. Oftentimes those who have a healthy sexual perspective have also developed a realistic and positive body image.
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, forming a healthy sexuality means shedding the shame and guilt associated with sexual thoughts and desired intimacy that is not heterosexual in nature. Positive sexuality occurs when someone has the ability to receive and give sexual pleasure while setting sexual boundaries.
Sexual compulsivity is the inability to control one’s sexual behavior and thinking. Sexual behavior that is out of control often continues in spite of tremendous consequences including: damaged relationships, loss of self-esteem, sexually transmitted diseases and financial or legal problems.
Signs of sex addiction/compulsive sexual behavior can include:
- Multiple or anonymous sexual partners or frequent one-night stands when it’s not the desired behavior
- Sexual behavior that frequently accompanies drug or alcohol abuse
- Sexual behavior that includes risk-taking, unsafe sex or potential exposure to sexually transmitted diseases
- Obsessive use of pornography, phone-sex services or pornographic websites
- An obsession with, and sexual harassment, of another person
- Severe mood changes surrounding sexual activity
- Neglect of relationships, work or other responsibilities as a result of thinking about or pursuing sex
- A sense that sexual behavior is out of control and an ongoing desire to control or limit sexual behavior
Love Addiction is often perceived to be less serious than other process addictions such as compulsive sexual addictions, eating disorders or self-harm addictions. In reality, it’s extremely painful and can be dangerous to both person with the addiction and their partners. Our culture has traditionally glorified love addiction with the notion that people fall in love and live happily ever after while completely ignoring the groundwork that relationships require.
Signs of Love Addiction:
- Compartmentalization of relationships from other areas of life
- Mistaking intensity for intimacy in drama-driven relationships
- Seeking to avoid rejection and abandonment at any cost
- Fear of trusting anyone in a relationship
- Manipulative and controlling behavior
- Perceiving attraction, attachment and sex as basic human needs, on par with food and water
- Sense of worthlessness without a relationship or partner
- Feelings that a relationship makes one whole, or more of a man or woman
- Escalating tolerance for high-risk behavior
- Intense need to control self, others and circumstances
- Presence of other addictive or compulsive problems
- Insatiable appetite in area of difficulty — sex, love or attachment
- Using others, sex and relationships to alter mood or relieve emotional pain
- Tendency to trade sexual activity for love or attachment
- Tendency to leave one relationship for another or an inability to be without a relationship