Is homophobia actually mental illness?

For decades people have attempted to link homosexuality and mental illness – but a new study suggests highlights a “remarkable” link between homophobia and psychoticism.

The study, conducted by Italy’s University of L’Aquila and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, attempted to find psychological factors that correlate with homophobia.

The researchers gauged the reactions of over 500 students to gay people through a questionaire, while also looking at homophobia levels, psychopathological symptoms, defence mechanisms and attachment styles.

However, they made a surprising finding – there is a strong correlation between those who have hostile attitudes to gay people, and those displaying signs of psychoticism.

Psychoticism is a personality trait “typified by aggressiveness and interpersonal hostility” – and is believed to be linked to increased vulnerability to psychosis such as schizophrenia.

The researches observed: “Homophobia is a significant social problem that involves specific personality features in the subjects, with an intrinsic aversion toward homosexuals.

“Psychoticism and immature defense mechanisms specify people with higher levels of homophobia, highlighting a remarkable association between dysfunctional aspects of personality and homophobic attitudes.

“This association could generate two possible victims: potential sexual offenders, and above all, homosexual subjects. Moreover, our study follows a controversial issue regarding homophobia as a possible mental disorder, and it also discusses the possible clinical implications that cross inevitably into the area of psychiatric epistemology.

“Therefore, to know and to assess the relationship between psychopathology and homophobia is a fundamental challenge in preventing the stigma toward homosexuality.”

They added: “We demonstrated the involvement of psychoticism and immature defense mechanisms in homophobic attitudes, while a contrasting role is played by neurotic defense mechanisms and depressive symptoms.

“Moreover, secure attachment is an indicator of low levels of homophobia compared with the subjects demonstrating a fearful style of attachment.

“Hence, in the assessment of homophobia and in the relevant programs of prevention, it is necessary to consider the psychologic aspects described earlier.”

Click here to read the study.