A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine has found a strong correlation between homophobic attitudes and psychoticism, a psychological trait present in several severe conditions that can also contribute to heightened states of hostility and anger.
Researchers at the University of L’Aquila in Italy say this is the first time psychological and psychopathological characteristics and the prediction of homophobia have been assessed and claim to have found a “remarkable association between dysfunctional aspects of personality and homophobic attitudes.”
The team of researchers asked 551 university students, aged between 15 and 30, to complete several psychometric tests to examine the psychological factors that could correlate with homophobia.
“Homophobic behaviour and a negative attitude toward homosexuals are prevalent among the population,” they wrote in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Despite this, few researchers have investigated the psychologic aspects associated with homophobia, as psychopathologic symptoms, the defensive system, and attachment styles.”
In contrast, the findings showed people with depression, neurotic defence mechanisms and a secure style of attachment had a lower risk of being homophobic. “If we suppose that subjects with a high level of psychoticism perceive external reality as a threat and project their anger, for example, against homosexual people, people with depressive traits could direct the anger mainly at themselves,” they suggest.
The team says the findings highlight a “remarkable association between dysfunctional aspects of personality and homophobic attitudes” and that this association could lead to victims of homophobia. “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.”
“After discussing for centuries if homosexuality is to be considered a disease, for the first time we demonstrated that the real disease to be cured is homophobia, associated with potentially severe psychopathologies,” said lead author Emmanuele A Jannini, president of the Italian Society of Andrology and Sexual Medicine.