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What Impacts Bisexual Mental Health? A Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology Podcast Episode.


What Impacts Bisexual Mental Health? A Clinical Psychology and Social Psychology Podcast Episode.

To kick off Pride Month on The Psychology World Podcast, we need to focus on the topic of the mental health of bisexual people and what stressors negatively impact their mental health. This is a fascinating podcast episode where we look at the unique stressors faced by bisexual people that aren’t faced by other members of the LGBT+, heterosexual or cisgender communities, and we’ll briefly look at how do we support and help bisexual people so we can improve their lives, decrease their psychological distress and improve some of the mental health outcomes faced by this group of people. If you enjoy learning about clinical psychology, minority stress and the negative impacts of discrimination then this is a great episode for you.


Today’s psychology podcast episode has been sponsored by Clinical Psychology: Second Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.


Introduction To LGBT+ Mental Health

I’ve mentioned before on the podcast that LGBT+ individuals face higher rates of mental health difficulties and conditions compared to cisgender and heterosexual people. Also, research shows time and time again being LGBT+ does NOT cause mental health difficulties, but they’re caused by minority stress. In other words, these mental health struggles are caused by the personal discrimination as well as stressful experiences that LGBT+ individuals face because of the transphobic and homophobic culture.


You can see all the references and more at the bottom of the blog post.


In case you’re new to the podcast, I can support this with my personal experience. Basically, all my mental health difficulties in the past have been down to living in an extremely homophobic social world (a kind word for the truth of the matter) and constantly being told I was wrong, I was unholy and I was deserved to die for a period of ten intense years before I just broke last August. Therefore, I can testify that minority stress is real, it is very impactful and my friends that didn’t grow up in homophobic social worlds have a lot better mental health than me. Or their mental health struggles are down to non-LGBT-related trauma.


Interestingly, when we dig down into the research more, bisexual people seem to have the highest rates of mental health struggles within the LGBT+ community. This is even more true for suicide, depression and nonsuicidal self-injury. Again, these mental health disparities are caused by minority stress, not because being bisexual causes mental health struggles.

This is why in the rest of the podcast episode we’re going to be focusing on what the unique stressors are faced by bisexual people.


Moreover, I should note for the purposes of this podcast episode, when I say the term bisexual, I am referring to all sexual orientations that come under the bisexual umbrella. For example, bisexual, pansexual, fluid and so on.


How Does Internalised Binegativity Impact Bisexual Mental Health?

The vast majority of LGBT+ have some form of internalised homophobia or transphobia that they need to deal with depending on their childhood and the world they live in. I had a lot to deal with in the past and even now I still need to have check-ins with myself because I am not perfect, and the scars of my child abuse still run deep.


However, a lot of bisexual people struggle with internalised Binegativity or internalised monosexism. This is the belief that being bisexual is wrong and they should only be attracted to a single gender, which is rubbish.


This Binegativity develops because bisexual people face biphobia and monosexist discrimination. As well as if a person hears the negative messages about themselves and their sexual orientation enough times then they can start to believe it. Therefore, when bisexual individual internalises the idea that being bisexual is wrong, unnatural and immoral, then their mental health decreases and their levels of depression as well as anxiety increase.


Lastly for this section, this is even worse when the Binegativity is added to any internalised cissexism (this is discrimination against transgender people) and heterosexism that they’re dealing with too.


How Does Double Discrimination Impact Bisexual Mental Health?

As we are all probably aware, all LGBT+ people face homophobic and transphobic discrimination from the idiots, the bigots and an endless list of other groups. Yet bisexual people face a very specific form of discrimination from monosexism and biphobia, because monosexism is the belief that people can only be attracted to a single gender. And people who believe in monosexism believe that being attracted to a single gender is more valid, better and legitimate compared to being attracted to multiple genders.


In addition, it is these silly beliefs about monosexism and biphobia that lead people to believe that bisexual people are greedy, untrustworthy and they’re obsessed with sex. These silly beliefs only lead to bisexual people experiencing discrimination at higher rates from heterosexual and lesbian and gay people too.


And it is that discrimination coming from heterosexual and gay and lesbian individuals that explains why this is double discrimination.


Personally, I think the idea that you can only be attracted to a single gender is beyond silly, because it shouldn’t matter who you’re attracted to. For example, I always say I’m gay because everyone knows what that is, I don’t have to explain myself and 99% of the people I’m attracted to are men. Yet if I really think about it, I am attracted to a range of genders, like non-binary people and even a handful of women, for example some of the women at the trans group I go to are attractive. That’s why I'm more androsexual (being attracted to masculinity) over strictly gay.


Therefore, I think it is perfectly normal not to be attracted to a single gender if we really think about our romantic preferences. And my argument always is, there are so many more important things to worry about in the world from climate change to war to world hunger. Who’s attracted to whom seems so futile.


Because it is.


How Identity Uncertainty Impacts Bisexual Mental Health?

I think the brilliant TV programme, Heartstopper, showed our next stressor brilliantly because a lot of bisexual people face identity uncertainty because they aren’t sure if their bisexual identity is right or even accurate for them. The vast majority of bisexual people struggle with whether they feel “queer” enough for queer spaces, or they might even worry if they’re “faking” being bisexual. That’s something I’ve not heard before. This is even more intense when the bisexual person is dating someone of the same gender and they might even doubt their queer attractions and identities based on the bi-erasure that they experience (we’ll talk more about that in a moment).


Overall, whenever you’re unsure about your identity, it is very stressful and it can lead bisexual people to feel disconnected from the LGBT+ community. Both of these factors lead to decreases in bisexual mental health.


As a little side note, something I’ve noticed since my assault is my identity has been in flux badly, so whilst this is different it is still identity uncertainty and it is hard. There is a common myth in society that you are meant to know exactly who you are and that isn’t meant to change. Therefore, for things to pop up that make you question your identity regardless of whether it’s trauma, sexual orientation or gender-related, it is still extremely stressful and it is hard.


This is why being supportive and taking the pressure off people to know exactly who they are is important.


How Can Bi-Erasure Impact Bisexual Mental Health?

One thing I hate beyond all else is how the bisexual identity is invalidated constantly because bisexual people are constantly being told “they’re straight”, “they’re actually gay” or “you’re just too scared to come out fully” or apparently, some bi-haters try to say bisexual people are trying to be trendy by being bisexual.


That is wrong on so many levels.


And yet it happens.


As a result, monosexism fuels bi-erasure and bi-invisibility by trying to get rid of bisexual people and it reinforces the wrong and disgusting cultural message that being bisexual is only a phase of experimentation instead of being a valid identity in its own right.


Also, after reading the Facebook post of my best friend when they came out as non-binary, there are a small section on them still being bisexual/ pansexual, and there was a sentence that has always stayed with me. It was something along the lines of “I’m still bisexual/pansexual regardless of who I’m dating”. This has always stuck with me because it reminds me that a lot of bisexual people are assumed to be straight when they’re dating members of the opposite gender or assumed to be gay when they’re dating someone of the same gender.


I forget the comedian I was watching on TV one year and she did an entire set on why bisexuality is the worst sexuality to be because of this problem. It was a brilliant set and I’ll have to look her up later on, but it reminds me that bi-erasure might not be a problem I face but it is wrong that it happens.


On the whole, it is these ideas or assumptions that try to explain away or remove any evidence of bisexuality that is the problem. But here’s the thing, being bisexual is real, it thankfully isn’t going anywhere because it has been around for tens of thousands of years and it is wrong to ignore it.


And whenever someone does try to erase bisexual identities, they are harming the mental health of a great group of people for no good reason.


How Do We Improve The Mental Health Of Bisexual People?

Besides from getting rid of monosexism, heterosexism and cissexism which is a constant fight and it is will be removed one day, we need to look at how do we improve the mental health of bisexual people in the meantime.


Firstly, research suggests that bisexual people could benefit and enjoy reading books or watching TV shows with positive and realistic bisexual characters. I would highly recommend season 1 of Heartstopper for that. Since watching bi-affirming messages, this helps bisexual people to feel more connected and validated in their queer identities. This has the added bonus of increasing the individual’s pride in their queer identity so this improves their mental health.


Secondly, research shows that bisexual people benefit from being a part of the LGBT+ community, even more so when they are a part of bisexual-specific communities. Since this could help to reduce the negative mental health impact that monosexism and biphobia has on them.


Finally, therapy. I will always encourage this option because this is a psychology podcast that mainly focuses on clinical psychology. Yet as a gay person, I know that having a good therapist is a brilliant, amazing and affirming way to unlearn homophobia and minority stress so you can start to live a full, happy and successful life where you can thrive.


You can be yourself, can be happy and you can do all the amazing things that might never have seemed possible to you. Before my breakdown, I never thought I would be able to have queer friends, hang out with them and just be free to live my own life. I don’t even need to hide where I’m going anymore from certain people, and that sense of freedom is incredible.


Clinical Psychology Conclusion

In this psychology podcast episode, we looked at how bierasure, double discrimination, identity uncertainty and internalised Binegativity negatively impacts the mental health of bisexual people.


The mental health struggles of all LGBT+ people are real and it is something we need to get better at as a society. We need to flat out stop these homophobic and biphobic, cissexist and transphobic messages completely.


If you’re a heterosexual or lesbian or gay person listening to them, then I hope you learnt something interesting. This isn’t a topic that is spoken about too much because even though I have a few bisexual friends, I hear whispers of this stuff but no one really talks about it. That is a shame, because if we don’t talk about these stressors then we cannot do anything about them to improve the lives and mental health of bisexual people.


Some takeaways for all of us from this episode are simple. Don’t support or ever say biphobic or monosexist messages, don’t try to erase the identity of bisexual people and always support or take the pressure off people to know exactly what their identities are. If we all do those simple thing or try our hardest to follow them, then the mental health and lives of bisexual people will improve.


Finally, if you’re a bisexual person listening to this episode. Your identity is real, it is important and valid and you, like everyone else, deserves to love whoever you want regardless of their gender. It doesn’t make you any less queer, any less loved or any less supported.

Everyone listening or reading this episode is amazing, and that includes you as well.

 

I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.


If you want to learn more, please check out:


Clinical Psychology: Second Edition. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also available as an AI-narrated audiobook from selected audiobook platforms and library systems. For example, Kobo, Spotify, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, Overdrive, Baker and Taylor and Bibliotheca.



Have a great day.


Clinical Psychology References and Further Reading

Doan Van, E. E., Mereish, E. H., Woulfe, J. M., & Katz-Wise, S. L. (2019). Perceived discrimination, coping mechanisms, and effects on health in bisexual and other non-monosexual adults. Archives of sexual behavior, 48, 159-174.


Dürrbaum, T., & Sattler, F. A. (2020). Minority stress and mental health in lesbian, gay male, and bisexual youths: A meta-analysis. Journal of LGBT Youth, 17(3), 298-314.


Feinstein, B. A., Xavier Hall, C. D., Dyar, C., & Davila, J. (2020). Motivations for sexual identity concealment and their associations with mental health among bisexual, pansexual, queer, and fluid (bi+) individuals. Journal of Bisexuality, 20(3), 324-341.


Friedman, M. R., Dodge, B., Schick, V., Herbenick, D., Hubach, R. D., Bowling, J., ... & Reece, M. (2014). From bias to bisexual health disparities: Attitudes toward bisexual men and women in the United States. LGBT health, 1(4), 309-318.


Gonzales, G., de Mola, E. L., Gavulic, K. A., McKay, T., & Purcell, C. (2020). Mental health needs among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Adolescent Health, 67(5), 645-648.


Hong, P. Y., & Lishner, D. A. (2016). General invalidation and trauma-specific invalidation as predictors of personality and subclinical psychopathology. Personality and Individual Differences, 89, 211-216.


Lambe, J., Cerezo, A., & O'Shaughnessy, T. (2017). Minority stress, community involvement, and mental health among bisexual women. Psychology of sexual orientation and gender diversity, 4(2), 218.


Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674.


Mongelli, F., Perrone, D., Banducci, J., Sacchetti, A., Ferrari, S., Mattei, G., & Galeazzi, G. M. (2019). Minority stress and mental health among LGBT populations: An update on the evidence. Minerva Psichiatrica, 60(1), 27-50.


Paul, R., Smith, N. G., Mohr, J. J., & Ross, L. E. (2014). Measuring dimensions of bisexual identity: Initial development of the Bisexual Identity Inventory. Psychology of sexual orientation and gender diversity, 1(4), 452.


Perrin, P. B., Sutter, M. E., Trujillo, M. A., Henry, R. S., & Pugh Jr, M. (2020). The minority strengths model: Development and initial path analytic validation in racially/ethnically diverse LGBTQ individuals. Journal of clinical psychology, 76(1), 118-136.


Persson, T. J., & Pfaus, J. G. (2015). Bisexuality and mental health: Future research directions. Journal of Bisexuality, 15(1), 82-98.


Pollitt, A. M., & Roberts, T. S. (2021). Internalized binegativity, LGBQ+ community involvement, and definitions of bisexuality. Journal of bisexuality, 21(3), 357-379.


Rees, S. N., Crowe, M., & Harris, S. (2021). The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities' mental health care needs and experiences of mental health services: An integrative review of qualitative studies. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 28(4), 578-589.


Wittgens, C., Fischer, M. M., Buspavanich, P., Theobald, S., Schweizer, K., & Trautmann, S. (2022). Mental health in people with minority sexual orientations: A meta‐analysis of population‐based studies. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 145(4), 357-372.


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