Sexual identity and orientation can be associated with mental as well as physical well-being. Your sexuality is integral to your self-identity, and not being able to express this can be harmful to someone’s sense of self-worth and mental health. Despite cultural mores shifting in this century towards a more tolerant space for different sexual identities and orientation amongst the population, the impact on mental health in relation to sexuality can be significant. Exploring this in a non-judgmental space such as therapy is helpful.
The term “sexuality” refers to the way a person describes their sexual, emotional and physical feelings or the attractions they have towards another person. They may be attracted to people of the same gender, a different gender, or to both men and women, or perhaps might not feel sexual attraction at all.
There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ sexuality; it is simply how a person identifies themselves and describes those they are attracted to.
For other terms that we haven’t listed, we recommend Stonewall’s free online glossary.
Questions around gender identity are often coupled with questions about sexuality – for example some people who are trans (whose gender is not the same as the sex they were assigned at birth) might also self-define as queer. But gender and sexuality both deserve space and sensitivity. Read more on gender identity elsewhere on our site.
People can be bullied, treated differently or discriminated against and friends and family may not understand or accept their sexuality.
According to Stonewall:
Experiences such as these often leave people feeling upset, hurt and isolated.
Other emotions resulting from a person’s sexuality might include:
If you feel like talking about your sexuality might improve your mental health and wellbeing, please get in touch with one of our experts and book a session.
Sexual relationships can also affect our wellbeing and mental health, particularly if they don’t feel safe, ‘right’, or fair. For people to enjoy having sex, they need to ‘consent’ – meaning, to choose or decide freely, without any worries about what will happen if they say no.
Relationships when people can’t consent include:
If you are in a relationship and you’re worried about saying no to your partner, talking to a therapist can stop you feeling isolated and help you make decisions about how to cope.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the proportion of the UK population aged 16 years and over identifying as heterosexual or straight has decreased from 94.4% in 2012 to 93.2% in 2017. Over the last five years, the proportion of the UK population identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) has increased from 1.5% in 2012 to 2.0% in 2017.
The UK repeals Section 28, which prevented schools from teaching LGBT sex education, or offering support specifically for LGBT students.
After nine years of civil partnerships, the UK legalises same-sex marriage.
Amelia Abraham writes about LGBTQ identity, and contemporary queer culture, in the UK.
An honest and practical guide for teenagers who want to know more about LGBT life.
AKT is a homelessness charity set up specifically to support young people who are LGBT and face abuse or hostility at home, or struggle to find housing.
Stonewall is the UK’s leading campaign organisation for issues that affect gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. Its research into mental health had led to grassroots and policy change that protects LGBT people in the UK.
Switchboard (0300 330 0630) is a dedicated phoneline for people who are, are think they might be, lesbian, gay or bisexual. It’s confidential, anyone can call, email or chat them, and all call handlers identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans.