Seek help for substance abuse

Sexual minority women face unique risk factors for substance abuse, such as:

  • Stress related to coming out
  • Trauma due to bullying, violence or abuse
  • Impact of sexism and discrimination
  • Relying on bars or clubs for socializing and peer support

If you have a substance abuse concern, remember that help is available. Local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender health, mental health or community centers often provide substance abuse treatment. Organizations such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association also may provide referrals.

Recognize domestic violence

Domestic violence can affect anyone in an intimate relationship. Warning signs specific to sexual minority women might include a partner who:

  • Threatens to "out" you by telling friends, loved ones, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation
  • Tells you that authorities won't help a sexual minority
  • Tells you that leaving the relationship means you're admitting that same-sex relationships are deviant
  • Tells you that domestic violence can't occur in same-sex relationships or that women can't be violent

Staying in an abusive relationship might leave you depressed, anxious and hopeless. If you don't want to disclose your same-sex relationship or sexual identity, you might be less likely to seek help after an assault.

Still, the only way to break the cycle of domestic violence is to take action — the sooner the better. If you're a target of domestic violence, tell someone about the abuse, whether it's a friend, loved one, health care provider or other close contact.

Consider calling a domestic violence hotline and creating a plan to leave your abuser.

Make routine health care a priority

Some sexual minority women struggle to find a doctor knowledgeable about their specific health issues and with whom they feel comfortable discussing their needs and concerns. The website for the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association is one place to find referrals for doctors.

Look for a doctor who is curious, empathic and respectful of your specific needs. Share your sexual orientation with your provider, and ask about routine screenings recommended for women in your age group — such as blood pressure and cholesterol measurements and screenings for breast cancer and cervical cancer.

If you're not in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship, schedule regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections. Share any other health concerns you might have with your doctor as well. Early diagnosis and treatment help promote long-term health.

Aug. 20, 2014 See more In-depth