Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ Community

Eating Disorder Treatment In LGBTQ Community

Members of the LGBTQ community have a high risk of developing an eating disorder. fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology found that the prevalence of eating disorders among gay and bisexual men was 10 times higher than that of the general population.

Unfortunately, members of this population are also more likely to experience barriers to treatment than the general population, making the situation even more serious. Below is some basic information about eating disorders and how they affect members of this community specifically.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders in the LGBT Community

Research into the connection between the LGBTQ community and eating disorders is ongoing. However, research has already identified certain risk factors that may make the development of eating disorders among members of this community more likely. Some of these risk factors include:

  • Discrimination because of gender or sexual identity
  • Psychological stress related to a disconnect between gender identity and biological sex
  • Being bullied because of LGBTQ identity
  • Internalized negative beliefs about oneself because of LGBTQ identity
  • Unrealistic body image ideals or goals that are prevalent in some LGBTQ cultures
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Fear of rejection

LGBT Youth and Eating Disorders

According to the Huffington Post, the incidence of eating disorders in LGBTQ youth is particularly high, with as many as 50 percent of individuals surveyed reporting the diagnosis of one of these disorders. The problem of LGBT eating disorders among transgender individuals was particularly severe, with 71 percent of respondents admitting to having one of these conditions. Anorexia nervosa was the most common eating disorder among transgendered individuals surveyed.

Treating LGBTQ Eating Disorders

The recommended treatment for eating disorders among LGBT individuals is virtually the same as the recommended treatments for members of the general population. It often involves psychotherapy, nutritional counseling, and medical care. However, getting LGBTQ individuals who have eating disorders to seek treatment is often more challenging. Members of the LGBTQ community with eating disorders experience unique barriers to treatment that make them less likely to get the help they need. Some of these barriers may include:

  • Insufficient education about eating disorders among LGBTQ resource providers who could provide assistance
  • Lack of access to treatment programs that address unique issues affecting the LGBTQ community

Over time, more resources have become available to members of the LGBTQ community with eating disorders. However, many LGBTQ individuals still have trouble finding the help they need. Most discourse on eating disorders focuses on the treatment of white, middle to upper-class heterosexual females. The strategies used to treat these patients does not translate well to the treatment of members of the LGBTQ community who struggle with eating disorders. Members of the LGBTQ require customized treatment programs in order to have the best chance of a successful recovery.

Recognizing Symptoms

The symptoms of eating disorders in the LGBTQ community are similar to the symptoms that affect anyone with one of these disorders. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Unreasonable obsession with weight or body image
  • Excessive exercising
  • Purging, either with laxatives or through vomiting
  • Extreme dieting
  • Frequent starvation
  • Avoiding social events because of body image, despite a normal weight
  • Binge eating

Many members of the LGBTQ community who have eating disorders will also have co-occurring mental health issues, such as depression and/or anxiety. These co-occurring problems often make treatment of eating disorders more difficult.

Seeking Treatment

Any member of the LGBTQ community who is experiencing symptoms of an eating disorder needs to seek treatment as soon as possible. These disorders typically get worse over time. Having an eating disorder impacts the individual’s physical and mental health. In some cases, these disorders can even be fatal. For this reason, prompt treatment is essential.

Family members or friends of LGBTQ individuals who suspect an eating disorder should encourage the individual to seek treatment from a provider who has experience working with members of this community. Family and friends can increase the chances of successful treatment by providing encouragement and emotional support without judgment throughout the treatment process.