Story by: Nicholas Clark on June 21, 2017
If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), being open about your sexual identity has driven many decisions and conversations in your life. One place it’s important to be open and honest — where you can feel safe and not judged — is with your medical provider.
“Being LGBT is not uncommon, and no person should feel ashamed,” said James T. Jennings, M.D., medical director of adult primary care for Norton Medical Group and family medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates – Brownsboro. “Because LGBT people face unique health risks, it’s important for your medical provider to know this about you so you can work together to meet your health needs and goals.”
Some health risks LGBT people face:
• Higher smoking rates and/or substance abuse
• Higher chances of depression, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder
• Greater risk of suicide attempts
• Greater chance of contracting sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
“When your health provider knows you on a more personal level, he or she can help identify and recommend screening or treatment options and plans based on your personal needs,” Dr. Jennings said. “Your provider is here to be an advocate and resource for all aspects of your mental and physical health.”
When it comes to mental health, the stress of feeling like you are different from your peers and then coming out and dealing with judgment from family, friends or co-workers can cause fear, dread and anxiety. Without proper support and acceptance, LGBT individuals can be susceptible to mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and/or attempted suicide.
Staying in good physical health by eating right and exercising also can have a positive effect on mental health.
As it relates to sexual health, talking with your provider about your sexual activity can be embarrassing for anyone. However, this is a completely normal and often discussed part of everyone’s health. Discussing this part of your life with your provider can be beneficial for prevention of STDs, receiving proper vaccinations, education on safe sex practices, resources for counseling and addressing any questions or concerns you have.
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