Gay and Bipolar Disorder: What to Know

Gay people are more likely to experience mental health difficulties. These issues may be exacerbated by stigmatization, prejudice, and discrimination.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is diagnosed when a person experiences periods of extreme mood swings. This disorder can cause sad, hopeless, or irritable moods and grandiose behavior in people who are manic—they may go on spending sprees or engage in impulsive sexual behavior. Psychotic behaviors may also occur during acute manic episodes. These symptoms include delusions (false beliefs), hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t there), and confusion. 

Sexuality and Bipolar Disorder

The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Some research suggests that genetic, developmental, and environmental factors may contribute to the disorder. Recent data suggest that emotional abuse plays a role in developing the illness.

Gay people have been shown to have higher rates of exposure to trauma, bullying, discrimination, and other mental health challenges than their heterosexual peers. Gay men may be more likely than gay women to experience certain physical—as well as socioeconomic—health challenges associated with bipolar disorder.

Sexuality and Bipolar Disorder Statistics

To date, most research on sexual orientation and mental health has grouped individuals who fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella together. That said, a few studies have examined the link between bipolar disorder and sexuality. For instance, one report notes a greater frequency of mood disorders such as bipolar among people in LGBTQIA+ communities. 

The 2017 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health conducted by the Trevor Project reached similar conclusions. Of those surveyed, 46% wanted mental health counseling but did not receive it, and 40% had seriously considered suicide in the last year.