People's "coming out" experiences are related to their psychological wellbeing years later

Posted on August 25, 2015

Last year, the US psychologists Clayton Critcher and Melissa Ferguson reported interesting research showing that fatigue from concealing sexual identity can actually hinder cognitive performance. This cost stacks upon others: complications in forming close relationships, concerns about inauthenticity, and damage to psychological and physical health in the longer term all suggest that concealment is not a great position to stay in. And yet "coming out" can also be challenging, and in some cases lead to no better or even worse life outcomes than before. Not all coming-out experiences are the same, as a new study shows.

William Ryan at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his team, recruited online 28 lesbian, 25 gay, and 55 bisexual people; overall the sample had slightly more women than men. Participants were asked to cast their mind back to up to four disclosure (coming out) experiences: to their mother, father, best friend, and the person they first disclosed to (in many cases also one of the first three).

For each disclosure partner, the participant rated how much 19 different descriptions applied to the way this person responded – some were negative (e.g. “be furious”), and others positive, (e.g. “thanked me for sharing”). Participants who experienced a higher frequency of negative reactions from a best friend or father reported significantly lower levels of present self-esteem, and negative reactions from disclosure partners of any kind were associated with current depressive symptoms.

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Category(s):LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender) Issues

Source material from British Psychological Society