What is Internalised Homophobia?

What is internalised homophobia? We are generally familiar with what homophobia means. Homophobia is defined as having prejudice against people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ). These individuals experience anxiety, aversion and discomfort when they think about LGBTQ people and same-sex affection (Spencer & Patrick, 2009). Similarly, LGBTQ individuals experience internalised homophobia when they feel shame and self-loathing towards their own sexual orientation. Meyer and Dean (1998) define internalised homophobia as LGBTQ individuals taking upon negative social attitudes towards their sexual orientation. This causes them to reject their own sexual orientation. They experience a conflict between their attraction to people of the same-sex and the societal expectation to be heterosexual. It can be a great source of stress. Why does this happen? What effect does this have on the lives of LGBTQ people? How can they reconcile these differences?
Internalised homophobia happens when LGBTQ individuals take on negative social attitudes towards homosexuality, and believe that their sexual orientation is unacceptable. One theory about internalised homophobia involves Allport’s theory of victimisation of minority groups (1954). When individuals are stigmatised, they can engage in defensive reactions as a result of the prejudice they experience, such as obsessing over the characteristic that is stigmatised or even having homophobic beliefs towards themselves (Williamson, 2000). For instance, a gay man could place a lot of emphasis on obscuring any stereotypically gay traits he may have. He could also dismiss and resent his sexual preferences. This incites deep emotional and psychological distress.


Heteronormativity plays a big role in cultivating an environment that encourages internalised homophobia (van der Toorn, Pliskin & Morgenroth, 2020). Some heteronormative beliefs include the idea that people can only experience attraction to the opposite gender. Others involve the the assumption that a person’s gender is aligned with the sex they were assigned at birth idea.

Mediums such as the media, cultural influences, and even social policies may perpetuate the idea that heterosexuality is the expected norm. As a result, heteronormativity influences how LGBTQ individuals view themselves and their preferences.

With heteronormativity regarded as the standard, internalised homophobia is a common phenomenon in the developmental process of LGBTQ individuals (Davies, 1996). Growing up, LGBTQ individuals have to navigate negative societal perceptions surrounding their sexual orientation.

In a qualitative research piece, gay men interviewed shared about their struggles with identity (Cody & Welch, 1997) that often centres on having to distinguish between their self-identity and the negative stereotypes about gay people. In many cases, this struggle is a precursor to the development of LGBTQ people’s self-identity.

Often, internalised homophobia is not something individuals can completely overcome (Frost & Meyer, 2009). It can continue to have a detrimental impact on LGBTQ individuals even after they come out. This can affect their mental health, self-esteem, and general well-being.

How Can Internalised Homophobia Affect a Person’s Health?

Internalised homophobia

Mental Health

Internalised homophobia can have damaging effects on a person’s health, especially their mental health. LGBTQ individuals who have difficulty accepting their sexual orientation can feel shame and isolation. This is coupled with having reduced access to mental health services due to heteronormativity (Yolaç & Meriç, 2020). Hence, these individuals are prone to experiencing more anxiety and depression (Williamson, 2000). In addition, there is also a strong relationship between bulimic behaviour and having internalised homophobia. An explanation could be an urge to punish the body for same-sex attraction (Williamson, 2000).

Higher Risk of Self-harm

There is a higher risk of self-harm among LGBTQ individuals who discover their sexual orientation during adolescence. These teenagers realised early in their lives that their sexual orientation deviates from the norm. Deeply entrenched in communities that promote heteronormativity (Williamson, 2000) and having limited access to LGBTQ-positive social groups, they can experience feelings of isolation. In some cases, these teenagers may choose to reveal their sexual orientation to others around them. However, if their sexual orientation faces rejection, it can deeply damage their self-esteem. Furthermore, important adult figures in their lives may dismiss their sexual identity as well. Adolescence is a period of discovering and developing self-identity. During this vulnerable period, the struggles LGBTQ teenagers face regarding identity and acceptance are significant. Moreover, they have fewer resources to cope with emotional difficulties. In especially severe cases, this can lead to self-harm and suicide ideation.

Less Access to Safe Sex Information and Resources

Internalised homophobia also impacts a person’s physical health in many different ways. This pertains especially to sexual behaviour. When a LGBTQ individual has internalised homophobia, they are likely to limit their association with the LGBTQ community. As a result, they have less access to safe sex information and resources. This can expose them to the risk of sexually transmitted disorders.

Internalised homophobia can have a devastating impact on a LGBTQ individual’s health in many different ways.

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Internalised Homophobia and Depression Levels in LGBTQ Individuals

Internalised homophobia is a risk factor for depression in LGBTQ individuals. Compared to heterosexual individuals, people who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to develop depression (McLaren, 2014). Many studies have identified a link between internalized homophobia and depressive symptoms (Igartua, Gill & Montoro, 2003Szymanski, Chung & Balsam, 2001). More specifically, the attitudes one had towards their own sexual orientation and disclosing it were associated with depression. This means that LGBTQ people’s negative perceptions of their own sexual identity and their fear of disclosure leads to depressive symptoms. The relationship between internalised homophobia and depression may also be stronger in gays than lesbians (Newcomb & Mustanski, 2010). This could be because gays are more vulnerable to external acts of homophobia. They tend to be at the receiving end of verbal and physical abuse, as well as victimisation. Exposure to these multiple stressors can lead to them experiencing more depressive symptoms. Furthermore, there is a stronger association between internalised homophobia and depression for younger LGBTQ individuals (Newcomb & Mustanski, 2010). It is suggested that internalised homophobia is most prevalent at younger ages. This is due to the process of becoming more aware of one’s sexual identity and coming out. However, these stressors decrease over age as their identities become more stable. It is thus vital to provide support for young LGBTQ people as they undergo crucial developmental transitions in life.

One's Living Environment

Another factor that can affect internalised homophobia and hence, risk of depression, is one’s living environment. Specifically, this is in the experience of LGBTQ people living in rural areas in comparison to urban environments. In rural environments, there is usually a lack of visibility of the LGBTQ individuals. The local community may also be disapproving of sexual  and gender diversity. In USA, more residents in rural areas than urban areas oppose LGBTQ rights (Snively, Kreuger, Stretch, Watt, & Chandha, 2004). Residents living in these areas typically adhere to traditional values and gender roles. As a result, LGBTQ individuals who live in rural areas feel victimised. They may face more internalised homophobia and hence, experience more depressive symptoms.

Internalised Homophobia and Relationship Quality among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals

Internalised Homophobia among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals
Internalised homophobia can affect relationship quality for LGBTQ individuals as well. One means in which this can occur is in terms of communication between partners (Li & Samp, 2018). For partners, having open and honest conversations to manage conflicts is important for a successful relationship. However, LGBTQ individuals who feel negatively about their own sexual identity can be more defensive when experiencing interpersonal conflicts. Also, having less confidence in themselves, partners may find it difficult to share their perspectives openly. When same-sex couples are more guarded in their communication, there is lower relationship satisfaction.

Another explanation is that internalised homophobia impedes LGBTQ individuals from coming out. Same-sex couples experience difficulties attending shared social activities where they feel the need to conceal their sexual identity. This can deprive same-sex couples of quality time at family gatherings and work functions. When this concealment is prolonged, there is an emotional cost for both partners (Hatzenbueler, 2009) as their relationship quality is undermined.

If you are in a same-sex relationship, it can be helpful to examine your relationship with your sexual identity. If you find yourself struggling with internalised homophobia, it may be wise to seek professional assistance. Besides supporting your well-being, this would be helpful for your relationship as well. There are therapists who specialise in couple-counselling for LGBTQ individuals. They will be provide you with more knowledge and resources that are specific to your relationship.

Internalised homophobia in LGBTQ

Shame and Internalised Homophobia in Gay Men

Internalised homophobia can occur together with shame for many LGBTQ individuals. Shame has been suggested to result in problems in identity formation for LGBTQ people (Brown & Trevethan, 2010). This may be amplified in gay men as they tend to face more external backlash for their sexual orientation. Early on in their lives, these men may encounter rejections in their interpersonal relationships. Parents and friends may reject their sexual identity. As they enter larger society, they may experience repeated incidents of rejection. For gay men, this may reinforce both their feelings of shame and internalised homophobia. Studies also show that the experience of shame can prevent gay men from coming out to their family members as well (Brown & Trevethan, 2010). Coming out can be an important cumulation of identity formation in LGBTQ individuals. The process of coming out to family members is especially emphasised upon, and shame can potentially hamper the achievement of developmental milestones for LGBTQ people. The effects of shame too permeate various other aspects of life for LGBTQ individuals. The ability to form a stable self-identity influences one’s capacity to forge meaningful intimate relationships. As a result of shame, LGBTQ individuals may experience inhibitions in forming any type of relationships with others. This may potentially reinforce the feelings of rejection and internalised homophobia. There are a host of deleterious consequences associated with internalised homophobia. You may feel worried if you find that a loved one is struggling with internalised homophobia. Here are a few ways you can help alleviate their struggle (Frost & Meyer, 2009):

Support Them as They Form Social Circles

  • Surrounding themselves with other LGBTQ individuals can help them establish healthier self-perception. This prompts them to form more positive self-identities. 
  • Moreover, this allows them to attain the right knowledge and resources that can be beneficial for them. This includes specific information such as preventive measures they can take to ensure safe sex with other LGBTQ people.

Encourage Them to Go for Therapy if They Need It

  • LGBTQ individuals are constantly exposed to social pressures surrounding their minority status. Therapy provides them with a safe environment to share their thoughts and process their emotions. It also gives them an opportunity to develop more self-confidence and self-compassion. Furthermore, the therapist can assist them in identifying and addressing any potential mental health conditions or symptoms.

If you find yourself struggling with internalised homophobia, you may find therapy to be a beneficial outlet for you as well. While it may not be severely impacting your everyday life, it can be helpful to speak with a professional and expand on your repertoire of coping skills. The experience of being part of a minority group can be a difficult experience, but sources of support are within reach.

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Allport, G. (1954) The Nature of Prejudice. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.

Brown, J. & Trevethan, R. (2010). Shame, internalized homophobia, identity formation, attachment style, and the connection to relationship status in Gay Men. American Journal of Men’s Health, 4(3), 267–276. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1557988309342002

Cody, P. & Welch, R. (1997). Rural gay men in northern New England. Journal of Homosexuality, 33, 51–67. Retrieved from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Rural-gay-men-in-northern-New-England%3A-life-and-Cody-Welch/48b8160bdcc231c931fce6d19747f97215a4d9bb

Davies, D. (1996) Homophobia and heterosexism. In Davies, D. and Neal, C. (eds), Pink Therapy. Open University Press, Buckingham, pp. 41–65.

Frost, D. M. & Meyer, I. H. (2009). Internalized Homophobia and Relationship Quality among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals, Journal of Counselling Psychology, 56 (1), 97-109. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2678796/

Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2009). How does sexual minority stigma “get under the skin”? A psychological mediation framework. Psychological bulletin, 135(5), 707-730. doi: 10.1037/a0016441

Igartua, K., Gill, K., & Montoro, R. (2003). Internalized homophobia: A factor in depression, anxiety, and suicide in the gay and lesbian population. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 22(2), 15–30. https://doi.org/10.7870/cjcmh-2003-0011

Li, Y. & Samp, J. A. (2018). Internalized Homophobia, Language Use, and Relationship Quality in Same-sex Romantic Relationships. Communication Reports, 00, 1-14. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08934215.2018.1545859?journalCode=rcrs20

McLaren, S. (2014). Gender, Age, and Place of Residence as Moderators of the Internalized Homophobia- Depressive Symptoms Relation Among Australian Gay Men and Lesbians. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(4), 463-480. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/10.1080/00918369.2014.983376

Meyer, I.H. & Dean L. Internalized homophobia, intimacy, and sexual behavior among gay and bisexual men. In: Herek GM, editor. Stigma and sexual orientation: Understanding prejudice against lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. (pp. 160–186.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications; 1998.

Newcomb, M. E., & Mustanski, B. (2010). Internalized homophobia and internalizing mental health problems: A meta-analytic review. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(8), 1019–1029. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.07.003

Snively, C. A., Kreuger, L., Stretch, J. J., Watt, J. W., & Chadha, J. (2004). Understanding homophobia: Preparing for practice realities in urban and rural settings. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, 17, 59-81. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J041v17n01_05

Spencer, S. M., & Patrick, J. H. (2009). Social support and personal mastery as protective resources during emerging adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 16, 191–198. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10804-009-9064-0

Szymanski, D. M., Chung, Y. B., & Balsam, K. F. (2001). Psychosocial correlates of internalized homophobia in lesbians. Measurement and Evaluation in Counseling and Development, 34(1), 27–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/07481756.2001.12069020

van der Toorn, J. Pliskin, R. & Morgenroth, T. (2020). Not quite over the rainbow: the unrelenting and insidious nature of heteronormative ideology. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 34, 160-165. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352154620300383

Williamson, I. R. (2000). Internalized homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men. Health Education Research, 15 (1), 97-107. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/her/article/15/1/97/775710

Yolaç, E. & Meriç, M. (2020). Internalized homophobia and depression levels in LGBT individuals. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 57, 304-310. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/ppc.12564

Anger can be a difficult emotion for us to manage, yet it is not an uncommon one to feel. Sometimes, it arises when we are snubbed at the workplace. Other times, it creeps up on us when a family member forgets to do the dishes. It can even strike when we miss the bus. When faced with unfavourable circumstances, anger is a normal and healthy emotion. However, our anger can have a destructive impact on our relationships if we simply act in accordance to how we feel. Besides, getting angry more frequently has been correlated with having a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases (Reitman, 2020). One solution worth exploring is seeking means to manage our own anger. This would mean reducing the intensity of feelings of anger and our physiological reaction to them (American Psychological Association, 2021). Self-help books are readily available sources of information that can help us to better manage our anger.

Anger Management Books for Self-help and Relationships

Anger Management Books for Self-help

Listed below are some bestseller self-help books for anger management, lauded for their practical strategies to better cope with anger. In fact, there are a plethora of books that talk about how to deal with specific instances of anger. Their content caters mainly to the adult age group.

Anger: Taming a Powerful Emotion by Gary Chapman

Gary Chapman, a renowned counsellor, is the author of The 5 Love Languages, one of New York’s best-selling books. In his newly published book on anger, Chapman takes inspiration from biblical scriptures on anger and forgiveness. He explores both the protective and destructive influences anger can have in our lives. In addition, Chapman explains the root of our anger and identifies circumstances where anger can be arguably right or wrong. 

Through examples of clients he has counselled, Chapman highlights how both unadulterated and repressed anger can destroy relationships. While Chapman validates the shame and denial usually associated with anger, he also shares how to process them. 

In the book, Chapman delves into a step-by-step guide on managing long-term anger and processing repressed anger. Furthermore, he proposes means of responding constructively to angry people. He also discusses the ideas of forgiveness and reestablishing trusting relationships.

The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life by Les Carter and Frank Minirth

The Anger Trap is the brainchild of Carter and Minirth, mental health professionals with therapeutic and medical expertise respectively. It encourages readers to take note of their subtle experiences of anger in daily life. 

Although experiencing anger is inevitable, Carter and Minirth invite us to reflect on how we choose to respond to it. They highlight that our choice of response often is preceded with consequences on our relationships. The book also examine how cycles of anger can be perpetuated by patterns in our lives. These cycles can be broken through applying specific strategies in our interactions with others around us. This can come in the form of boundaries and advocating for our well-being. 

Through offering practical solutions, Carter and Minirth share means of managing our environmental stressors to reduce the incidence of anger.

How to Keep People from Pushing Your Buttons by Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis is a clinical psychologist and renowned pioneer of psychotherapy. The book provides overarching advice for readers in difficult interpersonal situations in life. This may include conflicts with loved ones and even colleagues in the workplace. 

Ellis draws inspiration from his theory on Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy, which promotes emotional regulation. He explores common beliefs we have that lend power to situations and people in our lives. 

Ellis proposes alternative thought processes that can be helpful for taking charge of our own life experiences. Thereafter, he provides means of coping with irrational fearful and angry thoughts.

Anger Management Books for Relationships

In our relationships, we will inevitably face moments when we need to manage our anger: be it when we disagree with our significant others or when we feel jealous or neglected. While being angry is completely normal, the health of our relationships depends on how we choose to respond. 

Anger management books are useful in teaching us how to navigate our anger in relationships. These strategies can be healthy for our emotional well-being and for the growth of our relationships.

Anger management Books for relationships

The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Pattern of Intimate Relationships by Harriet, G. Lerner

Harriet Lerner is a clinical psychologist, recognised for her contributions to psychoanalytic theories of family and feminism. In The Dance of Anger, she recognises how societal stereotypes have undermined women’s expression of anger.

Through this book, Lerner intends to empower women to enable their anger to change relationships for the better. She urges readers to hone their communication skills to better manage conflicts and allow their requests to be heard. 

The book draws a distinction between ineffective fighting and asserting oneself when experiencing anger. With this awareness, readers can better navigate conflict in their intimate relationships for more productive outcomes.

Love More, Fight Less: Communication Skills Every Couple Needs: A Relationship Workbook for Couples by Gina Senarighi

Love More, Fight Less is a book by Gina Senarighi, a certified relationship coach. This book serves as an interactive workbook with activities for couples to complete together.

Senarighi based the book on the concept that couples’ fights stem from ineffective communication between parties. Rather than seeing arguments as sign of a failed relationship, Senarighi urges couples to see them as opportunities for teamwork. 

Love More, Fight Less is filled with tools to tackle common areas of contention in relationships (eg. intimacy, finances, career). The book provides 30 communication skills and activities to bring awareness for both individuals of their own preferences, and highlights 29 common areas of weakness when navigating relationships. 

Anger Busting 101: The New ABCs for Angry Men and the Women Who Love Them by Newton Hightower

Newton Hightower is the Director for the Centre of Anger Resolution. In this book, he combines stories of personal experience and clients, with clinical data on anger. Hightower presents an easy-to-follow guide with practical advice on managing anger. 

He advocates for the Recovery Approach, a strategy he coined, to diffuse anger before it gets beyond control. Hightower provides readers with an ABC framework to create sustainable change in their destructive expressions of anger. 

Readers are first encouraged to abstain from destructive angry behaviour and verbal phrases. Next, they are to remember their belief in principles for peace, happiness, and permanent change. Lastly, readers will communicate with their new phrases.

Anger Management Books for Parents and Children

Anger Management Books for Parents

When parenting our children, we need to be mindful of our anger. As parents, we usually take upon both the roles of being a nurturer and disciplinarian. While caring for our children’s well-being, we need to teach them appropriate behaviours as well. 

The experience of anger towards our children is definitely a normal and necessary part of the parenting journey. However, we may need additional help in managing our emotions to ensure we fulfil our parenting roles effectively. Anger management books are one possible source we can turn to to deal with our emotions while managing our children.

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids: A Practical Guide to Becoming a Calmer, Happier Parent by Carla Naumburg

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids is a book by Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker. An author of 3 parenting books, Naumburg is familiar with parenting struggles. She combines compassion, humour, and evidence-based practices to guide parents in managing their anger. She also makes sure to validates the struggles that parents face and affirms that they are not alone in this journey. 

Besides offering insight into behavioural habits, Naumburg provides practical guidance on improving parents’ behaviours. She attentively reminds parents to meet their own basic needs as well, to improve the regulation of their moods. 

The strategies Naumburg suggests are easily actionable and encourage greater self-awareness of one’s own triggers. She also advocates for self-compassionate practices, including building a support system to allow parents to take breaks from their responsibilities.

Anger Management for Parents: The Ultimate Guide to Positive Parenting Without Anger by Henry Hal

Anger Management for Parents is a book by Henry Hal, an educator and New York Times’ bestselling author. Hal recognises the stress of parenting, where influence of the media and peer pressure can mould and shape children. He acknowledges parents’ struggles in managing their child’s anger and their own. However, he highlights that some aspects of parental anger can have detrimental effects on a child’s development. 

Since anger can be an effective strategy in getting children to listen, parents may habitually get angry. Hal intends for readers to recognise that anger can potentially be their pattern of response in managing their children. This can occur even in circumstances where anger is not appropriate or necessary. 

The book hence includes solutions and strategies on effective communication with children. There are also tips for parents to manage their own anger so their emotions do not dictate their parenting.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting by Laura Markham

Laura Markham is a clinical psychologist who specialises in relationship-based parenting. Based on research in brain development and Markham’s experience working with parents, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids integrates this model of parenting as well. 

Markham believes that developing an emotional connection with our children can be a reliable basis for creating lasting behavioural changes. With this connection, parents will not have to lose their temper at their children. The book endeavours to help parents gain greater awareness of their own emotions and better manage them. This in turn allows them to develop empathy and boundaries, and learn to communicate effectively with their children. 

The book also comprehensively discusses how to assist a child in managing their anger and processing their emotions.

Anger Management Books for Kids

The concept of anger and managing their emotions can be foreign to children. They require more guidance in navigating their emotional worlds and learning how to deal with difficult feelings. While adults may not always be readily available to help children cope, books can be a reliable resource. They provide an avenue for children to learn about and explore their emotions independently.

Anger Management Books for Kids

Anger Management Workbook for Kids: 50 Fun Activities to Help Children Stay Calm and Make Better Choices When They Feel Mad by Samantha Snowden

Samantha Snowden is a mindfulness coach specialising in children and family. Children aged 6 to 12 years-old are the target audience of Anger Management Workbook

Snowden intends to help normalise children’s experience of difficult emotions, most notably, anger. This book guides them in recognising their feelings, being aware of their bodily reactions to them and naming them. Snowden specifically explains how the body reacts to anger in an easily comprehended manner for children. She also explores the complicated relationship between anger and other emotions like fear and sadness. These help children grow more aware of the triggers of their anger and how they usually express it.

In the activity section, children are given an array of resources to self-regulate and seek adult help when needed. The book emphasizes to children that other individuals in their life can feel anger as well. It teaches children about empathizing with these emotions in others and how to seek forgiveness.

Snowden reminds children that even when experiencing anger, they still are responsible to make good choices for themselves. This includes choosing safe methods to express their anger and calm themselves down.

Today I Am Mad by Michael Gordon

Today I Am Mad is a book by Michael Gordon is an author of several international best-selling children’s books. Gordon integrates self-regulation theory into his writing to encourage children to ventilate their emotions in a healthy manner. 

Today I Am Mad is a storybook aimed at children aged 3 to 5 years old. The protagonist, Josh encounters different situations where he and the people around him experienced anger. 

Gordon teaches young readers skills to deescalate conflicts with others who are angry. In other encounters where Josh was angry, he used strategies to help manage his own anger. These include deep breathing and finding a safe physical outlet for expression (eg. kicking a ball around). 

Besides delving into easily applicable self-regulation skills, he also includes lessons on how children can calm an angry friend down when they witness a conflict. The book is fully illustrated and written in simple language to be relatable for the younger age group.

Train Your Angry Dragon by Steve Herman

Steven Herman is a best-selling children’s book author. Train Your Angry Dragon is part of the My Dragon Books series where Herman writes about different emotional and developmental issues children face. This storybook series is aimed at children aged 4 to 9 years-old. In Train Your Angry Dragon, the protagonist Andrew attempts to train his dragon to manage its anger. Herman uses the angry dragon character to relate to young readers who experience anger. This teaches them how to identify their emotions. 

Herman encourages readers to manage their anger through strategies that Andrew teaches his dragon throughout the book. This includes perspective taking, where young readers are encouraged to recognise the needs of others in their interactions with them. Moreover, the book also shows readers how expressing anger can be destructive, while suggesting alternate healthier means of doing so. 

The book is fully illustrated and each line of the story is written in a rhyme. This would appeal more to children during story time, when the story can be read aloud.

All in all, anger is not a ‘bad’ emotion that we should attempt to dismiss or repress. Anger management books are possible sources of information to consider if you wish to better manage your anger when it arises, and get in touch with your emotions.

Nonetheless, if you find it difficult to cope with your anger alone, therapy is another viable option. Speaking with a therapist can help you process your emotions and delve deeper into the root of your anger. 

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American Psychological Association. (2021). Controlling anger before it controls you. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control

Reitman, E. (2020). Stress and anger may exacerbate heart failure. Retrieved from https://news.yale.edu/2020/08/11/stress-and-anger-may-exacerbate-heart-failure

What is middle child syndrome? Is it a real thing? Does birth order really influence our lives and personalities? If so, how do we navigate being a middle-born child? Middle child syndrome is a theory that middle-born children feel neglected in comparison to the oldest and youngest children. This is because parents are often hypothesised to place more attention on the oldest and youngest children (Dodgson, 2017). As a result, middle-born children grow up feeling overlooked and undervalued (Miller, 2018). They may also experience low self-esteem and have a low need for achievement (Ashby, LoCicero, & Kenny, 2003).

The Psychology behind Birth Order

The birth order theory states that the sequence in which we are born into our families affects our personalities. Adler (1964) proposed this theory and emphasised the need to consider family dynamics as an influence over children’s personalities. On one hand, first-born children are thought to be dominant, good leaders and have a higher need for achievement and social approval (Lemire, 2001). On the other hand, youngest children are perceived to be more pampered and prone to experience self-esteem issues. They also may feel pressured to outdo their older siblings. Middle-born children are generally more balanced in their views, with a tendency to play the mediator role in their families. Children’s parenting experiences and parent-child relationships directly affect the above traits attached to their specific birth order. Typically, parents experience high levels of stress and anxiety when raising their first-born child (Passey, 2012). They receive more cautious attention and strive to meet their parents’ standards. Consequently, the oldest child likely becomes more achievement driven to gain their parents’ favour. Conversely, parents tend to spend quality one-on-one time with the youngest child at an early age (Passey, 2012). As a result, youngest children tend to have close relationships with their parents. They develop more complex social skills and tend to more sociable than their siblings. Middle-born children generally grow up with less one-on-one interaction with their parents (Passey, 2012). As such, middle-born children can feel more distant from their family and are less likely to turn to them in times of crisis. In fact, they may feel constant competition with their oldest and youngest siblings.

Navigating the Birth Order Theory

Does this mean that being born into our families in a specific order defines our personality and experiences? Not necessarily. Birth order cannot account for all the individual differences between siblings. Age differences, gender, and socio-economic status (Lemire, 2001) all influence personality development.

McGowen and Beck (2009) argued that psychological birth order has more influence over a child’s personality than biological birth order. 

Psychological birth order refers to the experiences and interactions that shapes a child’s personality and mindset. For instance, a middle-born child who has older siblings can also develop stereotypical traits of an oldest child. Parents may give them more responsibilities and hold them to higher expectations when there is a large age gap between the middle-born child and the younger siblings. As a result, they could grow up to be independent and dominant.

Botzet, Rohrer and Arslan (2020) concurred that birth order had nonsignificant impact on children’s intelligence, personality traits and aversion to risk. Similarly, Rohrer, Egloff and Schmukle (2015) found that personality traits are not significantly associated with birth order. These show that birth order is not always an important predictor of a child’s development. 

As much as we acknowledge the relevance of this theory in particular family situations, it is crucial that we apply it with consideration.

Is Middle Child Syndrome a real thing?

Middle child syndrome can be a real thing in family dynamics and environments that perpetuate it. 

As discussed above, birth order is not the sole factor determining a child’s experiences and personality. An individual can be a middle-born child and have completely different relationships with their family members and encounters in their lives. Not all middle-born children feel neglected and overlooked, as middle child syndrome suggests. However, this applies when the family environment and dynamics facilitate the impression that middle-born children are less valued.

In some circumstances, oldest or youngest children may also undergo such experiences. Even though they stereotypically receive ample attention from parents, this may not always be true. These children may experience neglect and less meaningful relationships with their parents in certain situations. In some families, the middle-born child may require more care. This can be due to a medical or psychological condition. Parents may spend more time watching over this child and lavish them with more affection. 

Furthermore, in some cultures, children of specific genders are more favoured. Parents of middle-born children of the favoured gender may prioritise their well-being and bond more with them. Hence, oldest and youngest children may still experience middle child syndrome despite having a “favourable” birth order. Overtime, they can become more detached from their parents and less reliant on them for support. 

Characteristics of Middle Children

Middle Child Syndrome
Middle-born children are typically expected to possess some specific characteristics. As they lack the superiority of the oldest child and the affection given to the youngest child, they may feel inclined to compare themselves to their siblings (Passey, 2012). This can lead to the development of personal insecurities. Lacking a sense of belonging within their family, middle-born children may establish their identity through external avenues (McGowan & Beck, 2009). This can mean through other social groups, such as their peers. Middle-born children may experience more rebellious phases and are more likely to challenge authority (Collins, 2006Gustafson, 2010). Overtime, middle-born children who adapt well to their family roles can develop good interpersonal skills. Through family dynamics, middle-born children learn good mediation skills and the importance of treating others fairly. Also, as they are likely to seek social support outside their family, middle-born children can hone their social skills. These experiences can shape them into personable and well-liked individuals. Middle-born children also tend to deem their family environment chaotic or discouraging (Gfroerer, Gfroerer, Curlette, White & Kern, 2003). Hence, as they grow into adulthood, middle-born children develop more sensitivity to emotional affect. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that these characteristics are part of a stereotype. Not all middle-born children will identify with these traits. Every individual has unique experiences with their own families and may not relate to these situations in the same way.

What are the Effects of 'Middle Child Syndrome'?

Middle child syndrome can have lasting effects in an individual’s life. Middle-born children can continue experiencing it into adulthood even though their sense of inferiority stems mainly from parental relationships. The influence of middle child syndrome extends from peer relationships to future career choices (Collins, 2006). In terms of peer relationships, middle-born children usually have more positive views on friendships. Due to estrangement from their family, they can place greater importance on friendships than familial relationships. As a result, middle-born children seek to develop quality friendships with their peers. For achievement orientation, middle-born gravitate towards maladaptive perfectionism (Ashby, LoCicero & Kenny, 2003). They associate self-worth closely with their achievements. In extreme situations, it is unhealthy for the child. Middle-born children may also focus on outdoing other individuals’ achievements. This mindset is commonly found in environments where there are high parental expectations. Regarding career, middle-born children tend to be drawn to fields requiring skills of mediation (Collins, 2006). They are more focused on interpersonal relationships and justice-seeking. Therefore, middle-born children usually find employment in roles involved with serving other people.

Middle Child Syndrome in Relationships

Middle child syndrome in relationship
In romantic relationships, middle children syndrome can still occur. Middle-born children can possess specific beliefs around their relationships. For instance, they are prone to experiencing more irrational beliefs (Kalkan, 2008), and holding unrealistic thoughts about themselves, their relationships and their partners. Such thoughts possibly stem from childhood experiences where they were provided with less parental attention. This shows that as middle-born children grow up, they still experience anxiety surrounding their worth in relationships. The above is a stereotypical aspect of being a middle child. If you struggle with your self-esteem in relationships, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. Even you can go for online counselling, there are so many benefits of online counselling. Remember that our childhood experiences may shape us, but we can work through them to lead more comfortable lives. Therapy can be a safe outlet for you to discuss childhood influences and receive professional advice.

Overcoming Middle Child Syndrome

How do we overcome middle child syndrome? Feeling overlooked in the family context can lead to low self-esteem that implicates other aspects of life. However, every middle-born child’s experience with middle child syndrome can be vastly different. There is no one fixed method to manage it.

If you relate to the description of middle child syndrome, try reflecting on how it has influenced your life. Has it affected how you function in interpersonal relationships? How about how you show up at the workplace? Has this created favourable circumstances or difficulties in your life? 

Through becoming aware of how middle child syndrome has impacted you, you can seek out the appropriate resources to address it. One example could be placing too much emphasis on achieving your goals. When you are aware of this, you may wish to look for resources to improve the situation. This can include reading self-help books and even going for counselling.

Middle child syndrome can be tricky to overcome. However, there are many avenues available for help-seeking and developing more adaptive behaviours. 

Preventing Middle Child Syndrome

As a family member of a middle-born child, you may be wondering: how can we prevent middle child syndrome? McGowan and Beck’s study (2009) highlighted a few common themes contented middle-born children experienced. Middle child syndrome occurs due to a lack of parental attention and care. Therefore, helping middle-born children forge strong bonds with family members can prevent this. The common themes that emerged out of the study are:

Warmth and Closeness

  • These middle-born children felt that their families were warm and close. Family bonds are hence, important to them.
  • Middle-born children and their parents mutually respect and trust each other.
  • Middle-born child and their siblings have good relationships. Siblings are seen as dependable and good companions.

Positive Experiences With Having Both Younger and Older Siblings

  • These middle-born children saw the benefits in having an oldest sibling as a role model.
  •  Also, they felt it was good to have a youngest sibling who depended on them for care.
  •  They were satisfied and contented with their birth order.

Less Attention Provided

  • Even though middle-born children concurred that they received less attention than their siblings, they were neutral about it.
  • They saw benefits in receiving a moderate amount of attention, and still had their needs met.

High Parental Expectations

  • Middle-born children perceived their parents as having high expectations for them but were neutral about it.
  • The expectations were manageable and not beyond their abilities.

Good Communication Between Family Members

  • Forging healthy and good communication between siblings is vital to ensuring that they have good relationships.

Middle-born children need to have quality relationships with their family members to feel satisfied in their families. If their needs are met regardless of the amount of attention provided to them, middle-born children can still feel valued. This alleviates the possibility of developing middle child syndrome.

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Ashby, J. S., LoCicero, K. A., & Kenny, M. C. (2003). The relationship of multidimensional perfectionism to psychological birth order. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 59, 42-51. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/dissertations/AAI3314711/

Botzet, L. J., Rohrer, J. M., & Arslan, R. C. (2020). Analysing effects of birth order on intelligence, educational attainment, big five and risk aversion in an Indonesian sample. European Journal of Personality, 35(2), 234-248. doi:10.1002/per.2285iddle

Collins, C. (2006). The Relationship Between Birth Order and Personality and Career Choices. Providence College. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.providence.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=socialwrk_students

Dodgson, L. (2017). ‘Middle child syndrome’ doesn’t actually exist — but it still might come with some surprising psychological advantages. Insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/middle-child-syndrome-psychology-myth-2017-1

Gfroerer, K. P., Gfroerer, C.A., Curlette, W. L., White, J., & Kern, R. M. (2003). Psychological birth order and the BASIS-A Inventory. The Journal of Individual Psychology 59 (1), 30-41. Retrieved from https://web.s.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=15222527&AN=9974951&h=%2bTLgDmITUVqWPWMt1V9DjBTjlASqdNoHVXRpOls7LAxozdBbT%2fFxqvplIBLUQQYdbv6mfnfyUPVFUFvmyHkXHA%3d%3d&crl=f&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d15222527%26AN%3d9974951

Gustafson, C. (2010). The Effects of Birth Order on Personality. The Faculty of the Alfred Adler Graduate School. Retrieved from https://alfredadler.edu/sites/default/files/Gustafson%20MP%202010.pdf

Kalkan, M. (2008). The Relationship Of Psychological Birth Order To Irational Relationship Beliefs. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 36(4), 455-466. Retrieved from https://www.sbp-journal.com/index.php/sbp/article/view/1726

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Passey, E. (2012). The Benefits and Implications of Birth Order Position. The Brigham Young University Journal of Psychology, 9(1). Retrieved from https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=intuition

Tags: caregiver burnout, caregiving, self-care

This article is republished as part of a content partnership between Talk Your Heart Out (SG) and Homage (SG).

In simple terms, a caregiver is a person who tends to the needs or concerns of a person with short- or long-term limitations due to illness, injury or disability (John Hopkins Medicine).

While many of us are caregivers to our loved ones, we may not necessarily know how to manage or prevent a caregiver burnout. At times, when work and other daily activities get thrown into the mix of caregiving responsibilities we hold, it is natural that we feel increasingly overwhelmed.

Caregiving can be a long and demanding journey. In fact, 37% of caregivers in Singapore have been providing care to a loved one for over a decade. The stress of caregiving can accumulate over time, and if left unchecked, the physical, emotional and mental exhaustion can lead to burnout.

If you are a caregiver to a loved one, read on to learn some tips to manage or prevent a caregiver burnout!

What Causes Caregiver Burnout?

Family caregivers often put the needs and interests of their loved one ahead of themselves, neglecting their own wellbeing in the process.

Having unrealistic expectations is one reason that may contribute to the stress that caregivers face. Sometimes, caregivers may expect their loved one’s condition or mood to improve from their involvement in the care process. However, this may not be possible for individuals with progressive conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s.

Caregiver stress may also arise from external factors, such as a lack of support or pressure and expectations from family members. Sole caregivers may not have sufficient support for them to take breaks from caregiving. Other family members may also have unrealistic demands and expectations of the primary caregivers which add on to their stress.

Many caregivers also have to juggle multiple commitments and responsibilities on top of caregiving. Working caregivers may not be able to care for their loved ones especially during their shift, while the sandwich generation has to take care of both their children and parents at the same time.

What Are the Signs of Caregiver Burnout?

There are many signs of caregiver burnout. If you are unsure about what you are experiencing, look out for some of these signs here.

Oftentimes, caregivers are so focused on the wellbeing of their loved ones that they don’t notice that it’s taking a toll on their own health. Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate that you are experiencing caregiver stress or burnout:

  • Increased anxiety, depression, irritability and impatience
  • Lack of energy or constantly feeling exhausted, even after sleeping or taking a break
  • Neglecting your responsibilities and needs
  • Falling sick more often than before
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite and/or weight
  • Feeling overwhelmed, helpless or hopeless
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and other loved ones
  • Feel like your life revolves around caregiving, but it gives you little satisfaction
  • Constantly worrying and find it hard to relax even when help is available
  • Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring

How Do You Prevent Caregiver Burnout?

Learning to manage or prevent caregiver burnout is not always easy. However, caring for your own wellbeing is necessary to ensure that you are better able to care for your loved ones.

Besides taking a toll on our health, caregiver burnout also affects the quality of care that our loved one receives. Here are some tips that can help us prevent burnout or recover from one, be motivated to deliver care, and make caregiving a fulfilling experience again:

1. Prioritise

Caregivers have a never-ending to-do list that’s impossible to complete. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you try to complete everything at one go. Instead, try to break down your tasks into smaller, actionable steps, prioritise them according to urgency and need, and establish a daily routine. 

2. Set Realistic Expectations

We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves as a caregiver to try to give our loved one the best care possible. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no one is a perfect caregiver. Remind yourself that you’re always doing the best you can and making the best decision possible at that point in time, and that is enough.

Sometimes, we expect to see visible changes in our loved one’s condition, feeling disheartened when it doesn’t improve. However, in some cases, there’s only a slim chance of improvement, especially if your loved one has a progressive condition such as Alzheimer’s. Managing your expectations can help to reduce the emotional toll of caregiving. 

3. Embrace and Accept Your Role as a Caregiver

When faced with your loved one’s illness and/or the added responsibility of caregiving, you may feel that it’s unfair. While it’s important to recognise that your feelings are valid, it can be helpful to accept that some things are beyond your control. One may want to adjust one’s mindset instead.

Perhaps becoming a caregiver has allowed you to set a good example for your children or improved your relationship with your loved one. Accept your role as a caregiver and focus your energy on the positive and meaningful aspects of caregiving to keep you going.

4. Get the Appreciation You Need

Feeling appreciated can motivate us in difficult times. However, our loved ones may not always be able to feel or show their appreciation due to their condition. It might help to imagine how they would respond if they were well and remind yourself that they would show their appreciation if they could. Turning to family and friends for support and validation may help as well.

5. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back

Don’t downplay the time and effort you put into caregiving. Give yourself a pat on the back and find ways to acknowledge and reward yourself. You could even come up with a list of how you’ve made a difference and refer to it every time you feel disheartened.

6. Join a Caregiver Support Group

Being surrounded by people in a similar situation can be comforting. Besides providing validation and emotional support to one another, these individuals can share concrete and actionable strategies to cope with the challenges of caregiving. It’s also a great place to forge meaningful friendships. Here’s a list of caregiver support groups in Singapore that you may consider joining. 

7. Take a Break

For caregivers, breaks are not a luxury, but a necessity. Pamper yourself – it could be treating yourself to a massage and spa or even something simple like taking a long relaxing bath. Make time to meet up with friends and do the things you enjoy. Don’t feel guilty for taking time off for yourself. Taking a break to recharge can help you become a better caregiver. After all, your life should not solely revolve around caregiving, you deserve to enjoy yourself too! 

8. Practise Self-Care

It’s important to take care of yourself before taking care of others. As a first step, make sure you have sufficient sleep. Sleep is important in improving our mood, energy, productivity, and ability to handle stress. Eating well can also boost our energy levels and keep us healthy. 

While it can be a dread to exercise when you’re already stressed and tired, it can, however, be a great mood booster and help you stay healthy. Regular exercise can help us feel more energetic as well. Try to aim for 30 minutes a day, breaking it up into shorter sessions if it’s easier.

Going for regular health check-up is another aspect of self-care. While you are busy bringing your loved one to and fro medical appointments, make sure you make time for your own too. 

9. Meditate

Make time for relaxation or meditation into your daily routine to help relieve stress and boost your joy and wellbeing. Practise deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or mindfulness meditation. Even a few minutes a day can help you feel more composed when things get overwhelming.

10. Reach Out for Help

Shouldering the entire scope of caregiving responsibilities by yourself is bound to lead to burnout. We all need a little help sometimes. Don’t be afraid to reach out for and accept help, be it from family and friends, volunteers or professional care providers.

Home Care Options For Your Loved One in Singapore

Remember that you are not alone in this caregiving journey. Reaching out for help when you need it prevents your stress from escalating into a burnout.

Home care services can help relieve you of your caregiving responsibilities in the short-term so that you can take time off for yourself.

For caregivers who prefer for their loved ones to remain in the comfort and familiarity of home, engaging home care services can be a great option. Qualified nurses and caregivers can support your loved one with activities of daily living, nursing procedures and more. 

When the going gets tough, it can help to remember that you’re not alone. Help is always available. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support when you need it.

This article first appeared on Homage.

Homage is an award-winning personal care solution that provides on-demand holistic home and community-based caregiving and medical services to seniors and adults, allowing them to age and recover with grace, control, and dignity.

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