In a new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers concluded that homophobia could be linked to psychological issues.
Homophobia, translated as intolerance towards homosexual women and men, often irrational, is known to fuel hate and prejudice. After a long debate on whether homosexuality should be treated as a disease, it looks like the tables have turned and homophobia feeds a wider array of psychological traits and defense mechanisms that border mental health disorders or delve right in.
As we meet people and decide whether to form a bond with them or not, we are driven by positive or negative emotions. As negative emotions are feeding our response to the said people, we naturally act according to defense mechanisms that are triggered by the need to feel secure in a certain situation.
Drawing on these theories, the research team led by Doctor Emmanuele Jannini, the president of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine, conducted a study with the participation of 560 university students aged 18 to 30.
All participants were initially screened for the researchers to determine their mental health status. Following, they received three questionnaires to fill out. The first looked at the degree of homophobia each student presented. The second looked at coping and defense mechanism, while the third questionnaire searched for psychopathological symptoms.
The answers were evaluated and scored. Firstly, the research team found that more men than women were likely to be homophobic. Secondly, homophobic participants also displayed more immature defense mechanism. Of the three categories of defense mechanisms, these are an indication that a person is responding in a maladaptive manner when faced with an uncomfortable situation.
Usually, this turns out problematic. A third finding indicated that there is a strong link between homophobia and psychoticism. This could result in psychotic disorders such as personality disorders or schizophrenia. In a mild form, psychotic episodes are equated with episodes of anger and hostility.
This finding only held for participants who displayed immature forms of defense mechanisms. For those who utilized rather neurotic forms, and were also diagnosed with depression, homophobia traits were less likely to be present.
According to Doctor Jannini:
“After discussing for centuries if homosexuality is to be considered a disease, for the first time we demonstrated that the real disease to be cured is homophobia, associated with potentially severe psychopathologies.”
The findings of this research could inform further actions on preventing prejudice and hate stemming from homophobia, as well as the medical community in assessing mental health conditions from a different perspective.
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