As a transgender individual, you’re probably used to life being difficult. It’s likely that you’ve already struggled with identity issues, undergone bullying from strangers or isolation from loved ones, or suffered from gender dysphoria. To get to where you are today, you have maintained a strength of will that is admirable. Even so, you may be suffering from the effects of mental and emotional stress—including addiction.
Factors Leading Transgender Individuals to Addiction
It’s an unfortunate truth that transgender individuals (and the LGBTQ community as a whole) struggle with depression. You’ve likely seen this commonly discussed online, with friends, or in your own personal journey. Extensive research has been done to verify the link between LGBTQ identity and depression; for example, in a study by Trinity College Dublin, “over 60% of in-depth interview participants attributed the experience of depression directly to social and/or personal challenges connected with their LGBT identity.” This does not mean that as a transgender individual you are guaranteed to suffer from depression—but it does mean that you may be at a higher risk.
Gender dysphoria may also be causing you “clinically significant distress” and making your struggle even more difficult. As a transgender individual, you have a plethora of obstacles thrown in your way. Any depression, anguish, or fear you experience as a result is perfectly understandable—as is the fact that you may have tried unhealthy ways to cope.
Negative feelings or reactions to your gender identity can, unfortunately, lead to unhealthy (and ultimately unhelpful) coping mechanisms, often including addiction. Research shows that “LGBTQ individuals engage in substance abuse more than the general public and struggle with certain process addictions more than their heterosexual peers.”
When you consider all of the struggles that the LGBTQ community faces on a daily basis, this can be easy to understand. It’s easy to turn to substance abuse in an effort to regain some level of control over a perilous situation. While it may be common, this situation is less commonly treated properly: with treatment tailored particularly to a transgender individual’s needs.
Finding the Right Treatment Center Can Be Difficult for Trans Individuals
Seeking treatment for addiction as a transgender individual can be a daunting task. You’ve already come so far mentally, emotionally, and maybe even physically to affirm your gender identity. And you know there’s a very real risk that if you reach out for help, you may face stigma and transphobia instead of understanding and acceptance. While LGBTQ-friendly centers do indeed exist, this fear might stop you from seeking treatment at all, and lead you to spend even more of your life in the grip of addiction.
It can be hard to reach out for help without people thinking your gender identity is the problem. Being trans might have absolutely nothing to do with your addiction, and you simply require cultural sensitivity during treatment. Alternatively, gender-related issues may be at the core of the problem, with addiction as a symptom. Regardless, gender identity is an important player in any treatment you may pursue.
An LGBTQ-friendly treatment center that can address both situations gracefully is a rare gem—in fact, a study completed in 2009 revealed that “only 7.4% [of addiction recovery centers] could identify a service specifically tailored to the needs of LGBT clients” at that time. A lot has changed in seven years, but the fact remains that finding an accepting treatment center can be difficult. A more recent study on transgender patients’ experiences at addiction recovery centers revealed that “participants who reported felt and enacted stigma, including violence, left treatment prematurely after isolation and conflicts.”
While compassion toward transgender individuals has hopefully grown since this study was completed, any program that allows judgment to affect your treatment keeps you from the healing you need. When you do find a treatment plan that’s centered around your needs and your goals, the results can be tremendous. A warm environment can help create a positive treatment situation and a lasting road to recovery.
Getting Help for Your Addiction is Possible—and Worth the Effort
With the right treatment center, positive treatment outcomes are absolutely attainable. The same study showed that transgender patients who took part in “‘trans friendly’ and inclusive treatment […] felt included and respected in treatment settings [and] reported positive treatment experiences.” If you’re dedicated to finding a treatment center that accepts who you are as a person, they will be able to sensitively and effectively work with you through your addiction. We understand that life as a transgender individual may have been difficult so far, but a welcoming, positive, LGBTQ-sensitive environment can support you on the path to addiction recovery, moving you towards a brighter future.
Alta Mira is an LGBTQ-friendly treatment center that specializes in treating addiction alongside any co-occurring disorders, including depression resulting from gender dysphoria. It’s never too late (or too early) for you or a loved one to get help with substance or process addictions. Please reach out to one of our compassionate treatment experts today.
Lead Image Source: Unsplash user Jared Erondu