Heterosexual Men More Psychologically Distressed Than Their Gay Twins

Many gay men experience issues that can increase their risk for psychological problems. Prejudice and discrimination can cause them to feel anxious or fearful in certain situations. For men who keep their sexual orientations a secret, that burden alone can lead to internal stress that can manifest in various physical and psychological ways. Many gay men choose to cope with feelings arising from their sexual orientations with maladaptive strategies such as drug use and risky sexual behaviors. Although it is well established that sexual-minority individuals have a higher chance of developing mental health issues, gay men appear to reach out for help more often than heterosexual men. Men who adhere strictly to masculine ideals of self-reliance, strength, and control often view psychological help as a sign of weakness. Heterosexual men tend to hold rigid masculine ideals in higher regard than gay men, thus placing them in a position of more vulnerability to the negative outcomes of untreated mental health issues.

To understand the factors that contribute to this reluctance to seek help, Francisco J. Sánchez of the Center for Gender-Based Biology and the Department of Human Genetics at UCLA’s School of Medicine recently conducted a study that evaluated the masculine ideals of identical twin pairs comprised of one gay and one heterosexual twin. After assessing the mental health of the 38 twin sets, Sánchez found that the heterosexual twins had more psychological impairment than the gay twins. This was a surprising result, considering evidence supporting the link between sexual nonconformity and psychological distress.

Specifically, the heterosexual twins had higher levels of paranoia, hostility, anger, stress, and psychoticism than their gay brothers. Although this finding was unexpected, the low rate of help seeking found among the heterosexual twins was not. Despite the fact the heterosexual twins had more psychological issues than the gay twins, they were significantly less likely to seek treatment. Sánchez believes this suggests environmental and social factors contribute more to help-seeking attitudes than genetics. However, there could be certain experiences that occurred in the family of origin that impacted the help-seeking attitudes of the twins. This is just one area that should be explored in future studies. Additionally, the sample size, although highly selective, was very small. Sánchez concluded: “Notwithstanding these limitations, our findings further hint at how environmental and cultural variables may influence attitudes and behaviors that are stereotypically masculine.”

Sánchez, F. J., Bocklandt, S., Vilain, E. (2012). The relationship between help-seeking attitudes and masculine norms among monozygotic male twins discordant for sexual orientation. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029529

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  • Logan

    October 25th, 2012 at 3:53 AM

    A good bit of this is still tied a great deal to how therapy is perceived and how someone thinks that you are perceived when you seek this kind of treatment out. I think that there is still such a stigma attached to this within the straight community that you will not find among the gay community. Why? because gays are generally more accepting and inclusive of alternative lifestyles and treatments than straights are and this includes the reduction in the taboo that has been associated with seeking help for problems. Again, just one more area where we have to learn to get a grip and be a little more welcoming and open than any of us have ever had to be.

  • Rudy

    October 25th, 2012 at 4:28 AM

    It’s not like all gay people are less rigid about their masculinity.I definitely think the reluctance in seeking treatment plays a bigger role in this.And the reason why heterosexual men were found to have more issues than their gay brothers could be due to reasons other than masculinity as well.

  • Carl

    October 25th, 2012 at 12:27 PM

    Maybe as a gay man we just have a better understanding of what it means to be persecuted and how much better it feels to be open and honest over staying all pent up inside.

  • Alana

    October 26th, 2012 at 6:20 AM

    I think this is proof positive that accepting and loving yourself is always good medicine. Most hetrosexual men I find seem obsessed on how they are presented and really go out of there way to prove how macho, tough or manly they are. Some of course do this more than others but it’s defiantly something that they constantly go over in there heads with the bars always being raised so does the stress. Since coming to terms being MtF I am more relaxed and comfortable than I ever was before. Yes, there is still much stress from people as I transition, but at least it’s not me hating myself so much anymore. It has given me a inner peace. Once all people are accepted and no longer have to live up to stupid magazine and television ideas of perfection I believe you will see health improve for all people.

  • Jordan

    October 26th, 2012 at 6:41 AM

    This also, by nature, cannot study closeted gay men, since they need to identify themselves as gay to be in the study. Although, since there is (warning: possible butchering of remembered statistics) a 70% correlation rate between homosexuality in gay men and in their identical twins, it is possible that at least some of these “straight” twins are actually gay but closeted, and are experiencing the stress that their out brothers have gotten rid of. Just a thought.

  • Olaf

    October 26th, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Always thought gay people are more stressed due to either hiding their orientation and maintaining an alibi in front of people, or it could be because they are discriminated against when they do come out with it.

    Surprised to see that straight men are more prone to all these things.Are you sure there are no factors that lean on the straight sibling hat lead to this?

  • Bella

    October 26th, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    I have found in my own life that my gay friends are far more self confident and assured than my straight friends are. It is like they are simply more comfortable in their own skin, which is something that many of us struggle with and never achieve. It is not that I envy them because they have struggles of their own that I could never pretend to understand, but in this one area I do believe that they have the rest of us beat!

  • Brad

    October 27th, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    The fact that they are far more willing to ask for help is central to the issue.

  • nancy

    October 27th, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    my friends that are gay are usually cooler and more easy than my other friends.they are some of the most responsible yet not stressed out individuals I know and this report here doesnt surprise me at all.

  • simonE

    October 28th, 2012 at 5:24 AM

    Next time maybe do a study with more people and you will be able to get a better feel for how the population as a whole feels instead of just a small sample
    But at least this kind of gives you an idea of how the prevailing attitudes are trending

  • colby

    October 28th, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    looks like the tables are turning.homosexual people used to be more susceptible to such issues but now it seems like we are gaining not only in social acceptance but also in coping strategies against discrimination and stress.

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