Date of Award

Summer 8-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Jennifer Flaherty

Committee Member

James Paulson

Committee Member

Richard Handel


For decades, scientific literature has shown that sexual minority individuals across populations are disproportionately affected by negative mental health outcomes when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. These disparities are largely attributable to minority stress. Coping is a significant factor that can impact the content and severity of mental health outcomes and coping behaviors have been shown to vary based on sexual orientation. Mental health outcomes may also differ between sexual minority subgroups due to additional factors such as double discrimination and bisexual invisibility/erasure. Moreover, factors such as internalized homophobia and community connectedness have demonstrated strong associations with sexual minority mental health. This study was designed to examine the relationships between sexual orientation and mental health while considering coping behaviors, community connectedness, and internalized homophobia as potential moderating variables. This study also qualitatively assessed the challenges faced and coping mechanisms employed by sexual minority individuals during the Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) pandemic. Mental health variables were assessed via measures of anxiety, depression, suicidality, alcohol use, illicit substance use, and psychological well-being. Data were collected from a variety of sources including online social media networks and LGBTQ+ organizations. Quantitative data were analyzed with t-tests, analysis of variance, and general linear modeling. Results exhibited partial support for mental health disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual populations. Results also revealed within-group differences in mental health, community connectedness, and internalized homophobia between sexual minority subgroups. Positive coping, community connectedness, and internalized homophobia were all determined to be significant moderators of these relationships between sexual orientation and mental health outcomes. Thematic analysis of qualitative data revealed various themes associated with pandemic-related stress and coping, as well as specific impacts of the pandemic on the LGBQ+ community (e.g., isolation, loss of social support).


The VIRGINIA CONSORTIUM PROGRAM IN CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY is a joint program of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk State University, and Old Dominion University.


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