Mental health status and homosexuality

Since the LA Times article appeared in October, I have received several emails asking about various aspects of my views that were reported in the article. Some ask about my view that same-sex attraction does not always stem from poor parenting, others ask about my views on homosexuality and increased risk for pathology. I have covered the parenting issues in prior posts and want to address briefly the matter of risk for pathology.

Some wrote to say that when I was characterized by reporter Stephanie Simon as believing homosexuals can have a “fulfilling life” that I ignore research documenting a higher level of mental health problems among homosexuals.

I disagree that the reporter’s characterizations of my views ignore social science research. On the contrary, my views are quite consistent with what we know about homosexual adjustment. While there are consistent reports of elevations of various mental health problems among homosexuals, there are many homosexually identified people who are untroubled by diagnosable conditions.

For instance, the most recent published comparison of gays and straights on suicidality found that homosexuals were more likely to feel suicidal than heterosexual participants, even with psychiatric history considered. However, the effect sizes on dimensions of self-injurious thoughts and behaviors were small to modest (2-4%). For women, when psychiatric history was considered, the relationships disappeared for all indicators except the contemplation of self-harm. Even for men, the modest effect sizes indicate there is much overlap between straight and gay groups; the results cannot be accounted for by sexual orientation differences alone. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, June 2006).

To withhold “even the possibility” (quote from the LA Times article) of homosexuals experiencing happiness is not warranted by the research we have. In all studies of psychiatric problems among homosexuals, large numbers of homosexuals report no psychiatric distress. In the study of suicidality noted above, the majority of homosexuals reported no indication of difficulty. While rates are frequently elevated among homosexual men, and sometime among lesbians, such elevations do not preclude the possibility of a satisfying life. If so, then we would need to extend such thinking to other groups (both essential human categories and those socially constructed as well) where elevated risks are found. For instance, other groups who have elevated risk for depression include the elderly, women, people of low socioeconomic class, people who smoke, people living in high stress situations, and people with chronic medical conditions. Suicide risk is elevated among Native American teens compared to all youth (2.5 times). Higher rates of psychiatric disorders and substance abuse problems have been reported among physicians. Evidence from a large study of physician suicide indicates that the suicide rate among male doctors is twice that of men in general. The rate among female doctors is four times higher than for all women. (South Med J 93(10):966-972, 2000). Women in general are about three times more likely to attempt suicide than men. Would one deny the possibility of a rewarding life to members of these groups? Surely not.

Thus, it would be inconsistent with the research on psychiatric risk to deny members of at-risk groups “even the possibility” of a “fulfilling life,” whether partnered or not. Higher risk, yes; inevitable mental health maladjustment for all members of a group of people? No.

PS – I want to note that some of the correspondence about the LA Times came via a coordinated effort from NARTH to my college with the intent to appear that the effort was not coordinated.

Ted Haggard’s apology

Anong other things, Haggard said this morning via letter to his congregation, “”The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality. And I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life…” I suspect he is not referring to drug addiction when he refers to that which he has been at war about during his life. He may be able now to find some assistance since he will not be able to avoid his war.

Video and transcript of the apology. More on Haggard’s disclosures. The more that is revealed the more unclear things seem.

Ted Haggard dismissed from New Life Church

The leadership of the New Life Church issued a statement regarding Rev. Haggard. Apparently, the revelations continued and his offenses were such that remaining on the staff was impossible. Reading between the lines, I suspect the overseers determined that the offense was not an isolated event and was of such a nature that they believe some kind of lengthy process of restoration is in order. Most Christian churches will go a long way with a minister to effect reconciliation and given his standing and service there, I suspect he will be given many opportunities to figure out where things went wrong.

There is an almost crushing grief that I, and many others, feel for him and his family.

Ted Haggard under investigation in relation to drug purchase

Who knows what other revelations will occur but attention from Denver police seemed inevitable. If Haggard and/or Jones could score drugs so easily, perhaps they can turn over the benefits of their knowledge to the police. Some of Mike Jones friends might not be so happy with his disclosures.

Ted Haggard fallout: Will evangelical voters stay home?

Evangelicals were already showing some signs of sitting this one out. In the couple of months, I have received several emails from conservatives advocating staying home on election day. I do not plan to do this but even a small percentage point decline in any group’s participation could swing close elections. The Haggard scandal may further alienate evangelicals to take a holiday on election day.

Ted Haggard acknowledges some allegations

Associate Pastor, Ross Parsley says there is something to these allegations in an interview and email to the church. A voice recognition expert believes the voice on Mike Jone’s voicemail is indeed Ted Haggard. The accuser, Mike Jones, failed the first polygraph but the examiner said that fatigue and emotion may have played a role and they will try again. I am getting emails from men I have worked with in counseling who are troubled by the story. Some because it brings up their own struggles; others are saying they remember what this kind of time was like and they really feel for him and his family.

UPDATES:
1. Focus on the Family, also based in Colorado Springs, issues press release.
2. Haggard says he bought meth and received a massage from Jones.

The eyes have it: Sexual orientation and perception of invisible images

An interesting study out Monday suggests that sexual attractions direct primary appraisal (unconscious attention). What one pays attention to may relate to one’s sexual orientation. The study, “A gender- and sexual orientation-dependent spatial attentional effect of invisible images” by Jiang, Costello, Fang, Huang & He and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science masked nude images of men and women in such a way as to make them virtually invisible. They found however, that the attention of the participants were consistent with their sexual attractions. Gay men preferred to look at nude men, straight men at nude women and women were moderately focused on nude men but with a mixed response to pictures of women. I calculated effect sizes for the differences and they are huge. Sexual orientation accounts for nearly half of the variance in attention. Along with the pheromone and serotonin challenge studies, this new work adds to the idea that sexual orientation differences are quite substantial, no matter how they came to be.

I will update this as I am able.