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Bi+ mental health

Being bi+ isn't a mental health problem. And it doesn't cause mental health problems.

But those of us who are bi+ may have experiences that lead to poor mental health.

This page covers:

This page is part of our guide to:

LGBTQIA+ mental health

Remember: there can be many positive experiences that come with being bi+.

Our page on self-care includes tips for finding these positive experiences.

Bi+ is an umbrella term that describes having romantic or sexual attraction towards more than one gender.

If you're bi+, you might describe yourself using many different terms. For example, bisexual, pansexual or queer.

You may use one or more of these terms to describe yourself. Or you may use other terms – Stonewall's glossary includes many more. You may also feel like you don't need to define yourself with any terms. 

Biphobia

You may experience negative attitudes and treatment for being bi+. This could be from people around you and wider society. It might include negative treatment from LGTQIA+ people.

These experiences could include:

  • Dismissing your identity. People may say that bi+ people are indecisive or going through a phase.
  • Negative attitudes suggesting that bi+ people are promiscuous and attracted to everyone.
  • Assumptions that you're straight, or gay or lesbian. This may depend on how people perceive you. For example, if they assume things based on your appearance. Or based on the identity of anyone you're in a relationship with.
  • Loneliness because of negative attitudes and misunderstanding about your sexuality. Or if you face exclusion from LGTQIA+ spaces. You may worry about building other relationships if you've been treated badly before.

Biphobia can also run deeper than any specific incident or person. It can feel like an everyday part of the world we live in.

Where bisexuality was featured in the media, it was almost always described as a person being 'confused' and, more often than not, the butt of a biphobic joke

Difficult experiences of coming out

Telling people you're bi+ is something you'll likely do many times. You might find it liberating, allowing you to be yourself. It could also be very difficult and have painful consequences.

You may worry about facing discrimination if you tell people. Or if you already tried and it went badly, you might not feel safe doing it again.

Feeling unable to tell people about being bi+ may affect your wellbeing. And it could contribute to mental health problems like depression and anxiety. Whether you decide to tell everybody, nobody or some people, nobody should make that choice apart from you.

Exclusion from LGTQIA+ spaces

You may experience negative attitudes from within LGTQIA+ communities, as well as outside of these communities.

For example, people may suggest that you don't experience as much discrimination as other groups. You may be told or feel you're not 'queer enough' to be part of some spaces or communities. You may feel unwelcome and isolated because of this.

Internalised biphobia

You may feel bad about your own sexuality because of negative attitudes around you.

For example, you may feel like you don't belong as part of some LGBTQIA+ communities. This may be especially true if you have a different-sex partner. This might make it feel like you aren't 'queer enough'. Or you may believe other people's assumptions and stereotypes about bi+ people.

This is sometimes called internalised biphobia. It could affect your self-esteem. And these experiences may affect your mental health, such as contributing to depression.

Discrimination

You may be treated unfairly because of your sexuality if you're bi+.

Not everyone will have these negative experiences. Excellent services and organisations do exist. But in society as a whole, LGBTQIA+ people are treated unequally.

Discrimination could happen in many areas of life, including:

  • The healthcare system. Some health professionals may not know enough about bi+ people's needs and experiences. They may hold negative attitudes about bi+ people. Or ask inappropriate questions about your sexuality. You may also feel unable to be open about your sexuality in health services. You might worry that it'll lead to discrimination.
  • Workplaces. You may face negative attitudes from employers and colleagues. You might not feel confident reporting biphobic bullying to your employer. And you may worry about being treated badly at work or in job interviews, because of who you are. So you might feel like you need to hide your identity.

Experiencing discrimination can increase your risk of poor mental health. This is especially if you face different types of discrimination. For example, discrimination to do with your sexuality and your race. See our page on intersectionality and LGBTQIA+ to find out more about different types of discrimination. 

It can also help to know your legal rights. Discrimination in some settings is not lawful in the UK under the Equality Act 2010. For example, unfair treatment from employers or healthcare professionals. 

See our page on complaining about health and social care for information on how to challenge discrimination by healthcare professionals.

Abuse and hate crime

Abuse is when someone hurts you physically, sexually, emotionally or financially. It can also include making threats towards you or damaging your belongings. A hate crime is when this abuse happens because of who you are, such as being bi+.

You might experience abuse and hate online or in person. It could be from a stranger, or someone you know. These experiences could make you feel unsafe. They can also impact your mental health – such as causing anxiety, sleep problems, suicidal feelings or PTSD.

Other experiences of discrimination or biphobia might make it harder to tell people what happened. You might worry that it won't be taken seriously. Or you might not realise that what you've experienced was abuse or hate.

Abuse and hate crimes are illegal. You deserve to feel safe.

To find out more, visit the charity Galop's information about hate and abuse. Or call Galop's confidential helpline for support. 

Conversion 'therapy'

Conversion 'therapy' means any practice that tries to change or suppress your sexual orientation or gender identity. It is a form of abuse. It may happen even though there's nothing wrong with being bi+. You do not need to be 'cured' or changed.

These practices can include:

  • Formal sessions that present themselves as 'therapy'
  • More subtle practices, such as family members or faith groups advising you how to avoid acting on your sexual orientation
  • More extreme practices, such as physical and sexual violence or exorcisms

Conversion 'therapy' practices are unethical and harmful. Among other things, they can contribute to:

Mind is calling for an outright ban of conversion practices. The government has proposed a ban to end conversion 'therapy'. But this ban does not specifically cover bi+ people, or ace or aro, non-binary or intersex people.

In the UK, many major health organisations have also condemned this dangerous practice. And all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies have called for an end to it.

Published: May 2024

Next review planned: May 2027

References and bibliography available on request.

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