Gay Activist Dan Choi Hospitalized for Breakdown

ABC News video of Lt. Dan Choi protesting Dont Ask Dont Tell at White House.
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The stress of being the gay soldier who publicly challenged the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law -- facing the inevitable scrutiny that comes with being an activist -- may have become too much for Lt. Dan Choi.

Last Friday, 29-year-old Choi was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Brockton, Mass., telling supporters in an e-mail that he had experienced a "breakdown and anxiety attack."

Those close to Choi said he would likely be released today or Friday. He did not return telephone calls and e-mails from ABCNews.com.

Choi, who had chained himself to the White House fence three times in protest of the law that bans gays from openly serving in the military, said all veterans carry "human burdens."

He wrote on friend Pam Spaulding's website, Pam's House Blend, that he had been betrayed by "elected leaders and gay organizations as well as many who have exploited my name."

When ABC Radio contacted Choi in his hospital room Wednesday, Choi said only, "It's not easy," sounding glum, according to reporter Steve Portnoy.

Choi claimed that he had been involuntarily committed, but a spokesman for the Massachusetts Office of Health and Human Services was not immediately able to comment.

Dr. Una McCann, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University and director of the anxiety disorder program, said hospital emergency rooms can legally hold a patient for 72 hours if they are deemed a danger to themselves, to others or are incompetent.

After three days, only a judge can order a hospital stay without a patient's permission.

"He either said, 'Yes, I want to be admitted, I really need the rest,' or he got to the [psychiatric] ward and didn't like it and wanted to leave," said McCann, who has not treated Choi.

"The psychiatric team may have said, 'Not so fast,'" she said.

A nervous breakdown is an umbrella term for a number of conditions: depression, psychosis, but most often anxiety disorders, according to McCann.

"Some people develop such severe anxiety, they can't function," she said.

"My guess is that [Choi] has something in his genes or in his background of either being depressed or anxious," said McCann. "The campaign he has been waging has been extra stressful and my guess is he has not been getting sleep and it has influenced his ability to cope."

Serving in the military and being gay could also have been a big stress, she said. "Who knows if he was bullied as a kid - all these things affect who you are. Unless you have a supportive environment it may have been a struggle growing up."

Those in the gay community who knew Choi said being in the spotlight and traversing the country staying with friends, as well as the inevitable "hate" that comes with activism had contributed to his breakdown.

Being Gay Can Be Challenging

"There is an impact good and bad," said Cathy Renna, managing partner in Renna Communications who specializes in LGBT issues. "It's very difficult and very emotional and he has added challenges."

"Can you imagine being rejected by family and then the military family?" she asked. "We really feel for him. You see a mixed range of opinions about Dan Choi, but from an activist perspective, he is an amazing voice. It's a hard thing to do and it certainly takes its toll."

Others said that discouragement over the Senate's failure to overturn DADT last week was a significant factor in Choi's hospitalization.

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