Why Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ Community Need Awareness

stress coping mechanisms

While eating disorders can develop in anyone, there is evidence that has shown an increased incidence of eating disorders among the LGBTQ community as compared to other populations.

LGBTQ individuals experience unique stressors that can spur an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. They may feel unaccepted once they come out about their sexuality or are dealing with an internal struggle about coming out due to their sexuality or gender identity.

For these reasons, it’s important to raise awareness regarding these important issues and the prevalence of eating disorders among individuals in the community. Learn more about the unique challenges that people with eating disorders in the LGBTQ community face and how Eating Disorder Solutions offers a safe and accepting environment to help those struggling with an eating disorder.

How Prevalent are Eating Disorders within the LGBTQ Community?

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, the LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder. It is often associated with the additional pressures and stressors that LGBTQ-identified people experience. These experiences can dramatically alter levels of anxiety, self-esteem, and depression, and coping mechanisms can manifest in a variety of ways, like an eating disorder.

Men who identify as gay are thought to represent 5% of the total male population, but among males who have eating disorders, 42% identify as gay. Higher rates of binge-eating were found among people who identified as gay, lesbian, and bisexual.

Eating disorders in transgender individuals are highly prevalent, too. Consider this: while eating disorders affect an estimated 3 percent of the general population, 15% of people in the LGBTQ community who identify as transgender are affected. This is largely in part due to body dissatisfaction, the negative evaluation and thoughts of one’s appearance, which can often lead to transgender eating disorders.

Even more alarming is the prevalence of eating disorders among LGBTQ youth. In fact, a recent national survey of 1,305 self-identified LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 found that 54% indicated that they had already been diagnosed with an eating disorder, compared to 5 percent of heterosexual peers. Eating disorders in transgender youth are also at a high rate with 71 percent of these individuals having been diagnosed. If LGBTQ youth do not receive specialized treatment and intervention at an early age, these issues can be carried into adulthood.

Eating disorders in transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals are occurring at an astounding–and troubling– rate, making awareness and specialized treatment incredibly necessary.

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Unique Risks and Challenges in the LGBTQ Community

LGBTQ individuals face unique challenges that may put them at a great risk of developing an eating disorder. These individuals may live in fear of rejection, or have experienced rejection by friends, family, co-workers, and society. They may internalize negative beliefs about themselves due to their sexuality or may have a difficult experience coming to terms with their sexuality or transgender indenity. Furthermore, the LGBTQ community is more susceptible to being bullied because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which often leads to experiences of violence and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The LGBTQ+ community also experiences increased risks of homelessness or unsafe home environments. In fact, up to 42% of homeless youth are LGBTQ+ identified. For many in the LGTBQ community, engaging in eating disorders and self-harm behaviors are ways to suppress their emotions and control aspects of life they feel are controllable such as food, exercise, and appearance.

It’s important to note that there is not one “LGBTQ experience” and every individual will have different experiences with their sexuality. Coming out can bring a fear of rejection from friends and loved ones, but not coming out can contribute to negative self-perceptions, isolation, and a whole suite of mental health issues.

When we treat eating disorders in LGBTQ individuals at Eating Disorder Solutions, we take these incredibly personal experiences and factors into consideration. It’s important to understand the complexity of sexuality and gender issues that contribute to an eating disorder to achieve true healing.

Treatment & Awareness for Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ Community

Eating disorders in LGBTQ individuals are occuring at an alarming rate and specialized treatment that addresses their unique challenges and risks is imperative. Unfortunately, there are many barriers to support and treatment for the LGBTQ community struggling with an eating disorder. Common barriers include a lack of specialized treatment, which addresses the complexity of unique sexuality and gender identity issues. Moreover, these individuals may receive a lack of support from family and friends. Finally, there is a lack of understanding and education among LGBTQ resource providers who are in a position to detect and intervene.

So, what can we do? Health care providers, as advocates, and our society can take steps to shine a light through education and awareness in our local communities. As a society, we need to improve access to support and treatment for eating disorders in the LGBTQ community including drop-in centers, gay-straight alliances, and LGBTQ friendly clinics. A sense of connectedness to the gay community was related to fewer current eating disorders, which calls on the need for more support.

How Eating Disorder Solutions Delivers Specialized LGBTQ Treatment

It is imperative for those in the LGBTQ community who are struggling with an eating disorder to receive specialized treatment in a supportive and welcoming environment. Between the difficulties of coming out and past trauma that LGBTQ individuals can endure, Eating Disorder Solutions in Dallas, TX, recognizes the unique challenges and risks associated with eating disorders and the LGBTQ community. We are proud to offer specialized eating disorder treatment for all members of the LGBTQ environment. Our facility in Dallas, TX, provides a safe and welcoming atmosphere as we address the unique needs of eating disorders in LGBTQ individuals. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder and is part of the LGBTQ community, get in touch with us today.