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The Impacts of Conversion Therapy on Mental Health

Conversion Therapy Mental Health article header image

Conversion therapy is a practice that aims to change the gender identity or sexuality of LGBTQ+ individuals and can include processes such as institutionalization, castration, and electroconvulsive shock therapy. In the context of conversion therapy, these processes often inflict violence to force patients to associate same-sex attraction and behavior with negative emotions or experiences; some may attempt to induce vomiting or paralysis while showing individuals homosexual acts. According to practice guidelines from National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group of therapists who practice conversion therapy in the United States, techniques including hypnosis, sex therapies, and medication are recommended to change individuals’ sexual orientation or gender identity.

According to studies done by the UCLA Williams Institute, over 700,000 LGBTQ+ individuals have been subjected to conversion therapy, and it is estimated that another 80,000 LGBTQ+ individuals will experience this in the future, whether due to pressure from family members, religious authorities, or other caretakers. Although conversion therapy is still practiced in many places, it has been determined that it is not effective at changing an individual’s sexuality or gender identity. A report done by the American Psychological Association revealed that efforts to change individuals’ sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and pose risks for harm on the mental health of these individuals.

Conversion therapy has been repeatedly proven to have a variety of negative impacts on the mental health of those who are subjected to it. Conversion therapy can lead to feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, and a decline in self-esteem and confidence. LGBTQ+ individuals subjected to the practices are often forced to deal with the psychological consequences, including depression, anxiety, substance abuse, PTSD, eating disorders, and self-harm or suicidal thoughts or attempts, for the rest of their lives.

According to research done at San Francisco State University, LGBTQ+ youth who were highly rejected by their parents and caregivers due to their identity were more than eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, almost six times more likely to report high levels of depression, and more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs than those who experienced little or no rejection from their parents and caregivers.

Various organizations such as the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, American Medical Association, and the American Counseling Association have condemned the practice of conversion therapy. States such as California, New Jersey, and Vermont have laws in place that protect LGBTQ+ individuals from conversion therapy.

Although societal prejudice and discriminatory practices can be detrimental to the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals, progress has been made towards further limiting conversion therapy in other states and places, and the movement towards equality and acceptance for LGBTQ+ individuals continues to gain momentum. Overall, it is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with you, and that identifying as LGBTQ+ is perfectly normal and acceptable. We are here for you!


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