Find A Therapist logo.

What is Internalized Homophobia? Impact and How to Manage It

Written by:

published on:

Updated on:


Note: Your support drives Find-A-Therapist. We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Looking for a therapist?

Internalized homophobia refers to the internalization of society’s negative attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality by LGBTQ+ individuals.

This phenomenon results in feelings of self-hatred, shame, and discomfort with one’s own sexual orientation. It manifests as a struggle against accepting one’s true identity due to societal pressure and prejudice.

Understanding Internalized Homophobia

LGBTIQ+ flag

Internalized homophobia involves the internalization of societal stigma and prejudice by individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. This phenomenon can negatively affect mental health and interpersonal relationships.

Studies indicate a strong correlation between internalized homophobia and issues like anxiety, depression, and even physical health problems.

This internal conflict often leads to detrimental effects on individuals’ relationships and participation within the LGBTQ+ community.

Historical and Societal Context

The historical and societal context of internalized homophobia is deeply rooted in long-standing societal sexism and heterosexism.

Historically, societies have marginalized LGBTQ+ individuals, enforcing stigma and exclusion. Laws, media representation, and cultural norms have played roles in perpetuating these negative attitudes.

Societal contexts, such as religious teachings or legal discrimination, have ingrained these prejudices in people from a young age. This environment contributes to the internalization process, particularly in cultures where queer people are severely marginalized.

The lasting impact of these societal views can influence mental health and self-perception, further perpetuating the cycle of internalized homophobia. Addressing these historical and societal influences is essential in mitigating the effects on LGBTQ+ individuals.

Signs of Internalized Homophobia

Internalized homophobia manifests in various ways, impacting both mental and emotional well-being. Some signs include:

  • Individuals may feel a sense of inadequacy or self-loathing due to their sexual orientation. This can hinder their personal and professional growth.
  • Individuals often struggle with persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in activities they once enjoyed.
  • The fear of being judged or rejected can cause significant stress and worry, affecting daily life and relationships.
  • Isolation or difficulty forming intimate connections regarding the fear of disclosing their sexual orientation.
  • Individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with the negative feelings stemming from internalized homophobia.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or attempts due to the feeling of being unable to reconcile one’s identity with societal expectations.
  • A tendency to reject the LGBTQ+ community. This self-alienation can further deepen feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Recognizing these signs is crucial. Each indicator points to the deep-seated impact of societal stigma and the need for support and acceptance.

Impact of Internalized Homophobia


Internalized homophobia profoundly affects mental and emotional well-being. Many areas of life, from self-esteem to stress levels, can be significantly impacted.

Low Self-Esteem

Low self-esteem is a common effect of internalized homophobia. Individuals may feel unworthy or devalued due to societal stigma.

They might internalize negative perceptions about their sexual orientation, leading to a compromised self-image.

This can inhibit personal growth and the ability to form positive relationships. The cycle of negative self-assessment often perpetuates low confidence and self-worth.

Depression and Anxiety

Internalized homophobia is linked to higher rates of depression and anxiety. The internal conflict between one’s identity and societal expectations can create a persistent state of stress.

This emotional turmoil often leads to chronic depressive states. Anxiety disorders may also emerge, as individuals fear judgment or rejection. Both conditions significantly impair daily functioning and overall quality of life.

Guilt and Shame

Feelings of guilt and shame are pervasive among those with internalized homophobia. These emotions stem from the belief that one’s sexual orientation is wrong or immoral.

This internal conflict leads to self-condemnation and persistent feelings of inadequacy. The burden of these emotions can be overwhelming, affecting mental health and social interactions.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress is another serious consequence. The constant need to hide one’s identity or conform to heteronormative standards places immense psychological pressure.

This stress can manifest physically, leading to headaches, fatigue, and other health issues. Chronic stress diminishes the ability to cope with everyday challenges and increases vulnerability to mental health problems.



Feelings of isolation are common as well. The belief that their true selves are unacceptable can lead individuals to withdraw from social interactions.

Isolation can further exacerbate feelings of loneliness and depression. This self-imposed seclusion prevents them from seeking support or forming meaningful connections.

Isolation reinforces negative self-perceptions, creating a harmful cycle.

Strained Relationships

Internalized homophobia often strains relationships. Friends and family may not understand the internal conflict, leading to misunderstandings and distance.

Romantic relationships can suffer as well, with fear and mistrust eroding intimacy and connection. These strained dynamics contribute to relationship instability and dissatisfaction.

Risky Behaviors

The stress and emotional turmoil caused by internalized homophobia can lead to risky behaviors. Individuals may engage in substance abuse, unsafe sexual practices, or self-harm as coping mechanisms.

These behaviors provide temporary relief but often result in long-term harm. They further compromise mental and physical health, creating complex issues that require intervention.


Hypervigilance is a common trait in those affected. Constantly monitoring for signs of rejection or discrimination becomes a survival tactic.

This heightened state of alertness is exhausting and unsustainable. It affects daily life, making relaxation and genuine connection difficult.

Hypervigilance adds to chronic stress, perpetuating a cycle of fear and anxiety.

Paths to Self-Acceptance

Embracing self-acceptance and recovery involves a multifaceted approach, ranging from healing from past trauma to seeking professional help.

The Journey of Healing

Journey of Healing

Healing begins with acknowledging one’s feelings and experiences, especially those from formative years and childhood.

It’s essential to face past traumas, as they often shape current self-worth and acceptance. Recognizing internal conflicts, such as internalized homophobia, paves the way for liberation.

Journaling, meditative practices, or artistic expressions can be therapeutic. Revisiting and reframing past negative experiences contributes to hope and resilience.

Engaging in these activities supports emotional growth and sets the foundation for lasting self-acceptance.

Involvement in Supportive Communities

Being part of supportive communities fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance. Local LGBTQ+ groups, virtual forums, or attending pride events help individuals connect with others who share similar experiences.

These communities provide emotional support, promote self-worth, and encourage the celebration of one’s identity. Learning from shared stories and histories within the community enhances personal growth and resilience.

Building these connections can be empowering and inspire strength in individual journeys toward self-acceptance.

Education and Advocacy

Understanding and advocating for queer rights and queer history is vital in the journey to self-acceptance. Education about the struggles and triumphs of the LGBTQ+ community helps individuals feel less isolated.

Participating in advocacy can be empowering, transforming knowledge into action. This involvement not only educates others but also reinforces self-acceptance and pride in one’s identity.

Engaging in local activism or supporting LGBTQ+ causes provides a sense of purpose and community.


Practicing self-compassion means treating oneself with kindness and understanding. Recognizing that everyone has struggles and that these do not define one’s worth is crucial.

Practices like mindfulness, positive self-talk, and setting healthy boundaries are essential. These habits support emotional health and improve overall well-being.

Embracing self-compassion helps individuals rebuild self-worth, fostering an environment where self-acceptance can flourish.

Seeking Professional Help

Online therapy

Professional help is often necessary to navigate complex emotions and experiences. Therapists and counselors with specialized knowledge of LGBTQ+ issues can provide valuable perspectives and guidance.

Therapy can help address internalized homophobia, past traumas, and offer strategies for building self-acceptance. Professionals can tailor approaches to individual needs, making the recovery process more effective.

Online directories such as and online platforms like BetterHelp can connect individuals with licensed and qualified therapists according to their needs and preferences.

Seeking help is a sign of strength and a vital step towards achieving lasting self-acceptance and emotional well-being.


Internalized homophobia (IH) plays a significant role in affecting the mental and physical well-being of individuals.

This concept involves adopting negative societal attitudes towards oneself due to one’s own homosexuality.

However, managing internalized homophobia is possible through self-awareness, therapy, and community support.


Newcomb, Michael E., and Brian Mustanski. “Internalized homophobia and internalizing mental health problems: A meta-analytic review.” Clinical psychology review 30.8 (2010): 1019-1029. Link.

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Online Therapy

Discover a path to emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in convenient and affordable online therapy. With a vast network of 30,000+ licensed therapists, they’re committed to helping you find the one to support your needs. Take advantage of their Free Online Assessment, and connect with a therapist who truly understands you. Begin your journey today.

Relationship Counceling

Whether you’re facing communication challenges, trust issues, or simply seeking to strengthen your connection, ReGain’s experienced therapists are here to guide you and your partner toward a healthier, happier connection from the comfort of your own space. Get started.

Therapist Directory

Discover the perfect therapist who aligns with your goals and preferences, allowing you to take charge of your mental health. Whether you’re searching for a specialist based on your unique needs, experience level, insurance coverage, budget, or location, our user-friendly platform has you covered. Search here.

Mental Health Assesments

Use our mental health assessments to explore concerns like ADHD, anger issues, depression, and toxic relationships.

About the author

Eliana Galindo
Eliana is a dedicated psychologist from Colombia who has gained extensive experience and made significant contributions in child development, clinical psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. Her work as a rehabilitation psychologist with disabled children has been transformative and compassionate. In the child development field, she creates nurturing environments through assessments, interventions, and collaboration with families. In clinical psychology, she supports individuals overcoming mental health challenges with empathy and evidence-based approaches. Inspired by her experiences, Eliana is motivated to write about mental health, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for a compassionate and inclusive approach to well-being.

You might also be interested in


In some articles, we include products we think are useful for our readers. When you buy through these links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.

If you need an immediate assistance:

Medical Emergency (US) – 911
Medical Emergency (Global) – 112
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – 988
Full List of Emergency Resources 

Online Therapy, Your Way

Discover the ease of starting therapy with BetterHelp. Complete the assessment and connect with a licensed professional therapist online.
Note: We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.