Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Sexuality and mental health

3-minute read

Sexuality is deeply personal and can be complex. It is about your sexual feelings and attractions, not just who you have sex with. Your sexuality can change over time. If you’re given a hard time about your sexuality or feel isolated, help is available.

What is sexuality?

Sexuality isn’t just about sex. It’s also about body image, feelings of intimacy, attraction and affection, and how you develop and maintain relationships.

It can be influenced not just by your thoughts and desires now, but also by your past experiences, your culture, your background, your friends, your religion and the media you use.

Very broadly, people’s sexuality can fall into one or more of these types:

  • heterosexual or straight — attracted to people of the opposite sex
  • gay/homosexual — attracted to people of the same sex (used for men and often women)
  • lesbian — attracted to people of the same sex (used for women)
  • bisexual — attracted to both men and women
  • asexual — not really sexually attracted to anyone
  • pansexual — attracted to people of any gender, sex or sexual identity
  • polysexual — attracted to people many genders, sexes or sexual identities (though not all)

Some people use terms such as ‘queer’ or ‘fluid’ to express themselves and their feelings.

Some people use terms such as ‘pan’ or ‘pansexual’, or polysexual, to say they’re attracted to different people, regardless of their gender or sexual identities.

What you call yourself is up to you. You don’t have to label yourself at all.

And how you see yourself can change over time.

What if you’re questioning your sexuality?

Some people are quite clear about their sexuality. Others don’t fully understand their sexuality until well into adulthood, and even then it can be confusing. It is ok not to be sure.

It can take time to fully understand your sexuality. Being aware of the different sensations in your body that make you want to be intimate with another person can help.

Don't let anyone pressure you into anything that you do not want to do. If you are worried, talk to someone you trust.

How can I tell people about my sexuality?

Sexuality forms part of who we are, and having to hide a part of our identity can be very painful and upsetting. Many people fear being open about their sexuality due to negative reactions, discrimination, bullying or violence. That does happen for some people, but for others, coming out leads to acceptance and support.

If you choose to ‘come out’, make sure you feel ready to cope with people’s responses, both supportive and not so supportive.

If someone rejects you, consider whether the relationship is worthwhile. We are all different, and the things that are right for some are different for others.

Be prepared that once you start to tell people, others might find out soon after. Give them time to get used to the idea – it may have taken you time (perhaps years) to accept your sexuality yourself.

If you’re having doubts, or are feeling depressed or guilty, don’t go it alone – seek professional support.

Who can I talk to?

Throughout Australia, there are people to talk to about your concerns and experiences with sexuality or gender, or for support or help. You can access them through LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) support services.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Sexuality | Head to Health

Your sexuality plays an important role in your identity and sense of self. Not being able to express your sexuality can be damaging to your sense of self-worth and overall mental health.

Read more on Head to Health website

Understanding your sexuality | ReachOut Australia

Sexuality covers a broad spectrum, and is also deeply personal. It’s about understanding the sexual feelings and attractions we feel towards others. Learn more about sexuality at

Read more on website

Sexual Identity | What is sexual identity? | Kids Helpline

What is sexual identity? Kids Helpline can help you understand what it is and how you can make sense of your own identity, even if it is complex or confusing.

Read more on Kids Helpline website

Gender Identity Examples, Meaning & Definition | Kids Helpline

Gender identity is more than being male or female. Kids Helpline can help you understand what it is and how you can understand your own identity.

Read more on Kids Helpline website

Healthy relationships - Sexual Health - Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet

Healthy relationships A healthy relationship between partners is a crucial element of sexual health

Read more on Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet website

Mental Health — TINO : Tune In Not Out

Tune In Not Out (TINO) is the youth health portal helping young people navigate life’s challenges. The website covers over 50 topics from depression, relationships, sexual health, school life and more.

Read more on Tune In Not Out website

Get Help

QLife Helpline

Read more on QLife website

Gender and sexuality | Disability Gateway

Information and services to help people with disability, their family, friends and carers, to find the support they need in Australia

Read more on Disability Gateway website

Gender expression | Head to Health

Gender identity and expression can be considered on a spectrum. The expression of your gender is an important part of your self-identity, and is central to your mental health and wellbeing.

Read more on Head to Health website

Illicit drug use - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Illicit drug use covers the use of a broad range of substances, including illegal drugs, misuse of pharmaceuticals and other psychoactive substances. Illicit drug use affects individuals, families...

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.