A new study has found that homophobic people are likely to suffer from mental issues such as bursts of anger, aggression, and physical hostility.
A team of researchers from Italy say that individuals who see being gay as an incredibly negative thing have more inappropriate coping mechanisms and higher levels of psychoticism, compared to individuals who see gay people like any other peer.
It’s important to note that psychoticism and psychotic are two (2) different things. The first one is a personality trait defined by hostile behavior, aggression and anger directed at others. The second one is a mental condition defined by Merriam-Webster as “having or relating to a very serious mental illness that makes you act strangely or believe things that are not true; relating to or suffering from psychosis”.
But Emmanuele Jannini, lead researcher and medical sexologist and endocrinologist from the University of Rome Tor Vergata, gave a statement to Live Science saying that the study he and his colleagues conducted does show that homophobic people have more mental issues that non-homophobic people.
The issue is a long debated one and earlier studies have not been able to reach consensus as some concluded that homophobic people react so passionately to gays and lesbians because they themselves harbor secret same-sex desires, while other studies concluded that homophobic people are truly disgusted by the idea of having a sexual relationship with a person of the same sex.
The researchers believe that people’s view of same-sex relationships may also be heavily influenced by other factors such as an individual’s religious orientation, sensitivity to disgust, misogynistic attitude, and hypermasculinity.
In the first study to ever investigate the psychopathology and mental health of homophobic people, Jannini and his colleagues picked out a little over 550 students with the age between 18 and 30, and had them answer questions related to their levels of homophobia, as well as questions related to their psychopathology (their levels of anxiety, depression and psychoticism).
The levels of homophobia were assessed by asking subjects to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “gay people make me nervous”, “I think homosexual people should not work with children”, “It does not matter to me whether my friends are gay or straight”, and so on.
They then had to answer questions related to their attachment style, the way that they approach relationships. A healthy attachment style is one where individuals feel comfortable getting close to another person and having that person get close to them, whereas an unhealthy attachment style is one where individuals tend to avoid intimacy, find it hard to trust others, or become too clingy.
Last but not least, the subjects had to answer questions related to their defense mechanisms. Having a healthy (or mature) defense mechanism means that you are capable of regulation your emotions and that you don’t depend on other for validation, whereas having an unhealthy (or immature) defense mechanism means that you act impulsively and you deny the presence of a problem.
The results showed that the better a person’s mental health was, the more unlikely they were to be homophobic. Subjects who felt uncomfortable having a close relationship with someone were much more likely to be homophobic than individuals who felt comfortable having a close relationship with someone. And subject with immature defense mechanisms were much more likely to be homophobic than individuals with mature defense mechanisms.
The findings were published earlier this month, on September 8, 2015, in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
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