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Dealing with eating disorders in LGBT community

January 29, 2018 Eating Disorders


Dealing with eating disorders in LGBT community

Since time immemorial, eating disorders are associated with young, straight and white women’s disorders but little is known that these disorders can strike anyone, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, demographics, age, economic background and culture. In fact, a large section of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is also affected by this disorder, even though extensive research is necessitated to establish links between an individual’s gender, sexuality, eating disorders and body image. Research indicates that “beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.” Gay and bisexual men also had a significantly higher prevalence of lifetime prevalence of bulimia nervosa, subclinical bulimia, and any subclinical eating disorder compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

People belonging to the LGBT community encounter a lot of challenges and the fear of being shunned by the peers and family members may predispose them toward alcohol and substance abuse as a coping mechanism. This might too cause them to adopt unhealthy eating habits. Some of the factors influencing the LGBT community in developing eating disorders are:

  • Fear of accepting their real identity in front of the family, friends, and coworkers, and facing resulting oppression and disbelief.
  • Internalization of negativity resulting from stigma, discrimination, nonnormative gender expressions, etc.
  • Facing violence, bullying and mental disorders like post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which raises the propensity toward an eating disorder.
  • Dissonance between one’s gender identity and biological sex.
  • Extreme body image ideals in the LGBT community.
  • Lack of culturally simulating treatment modalities.
  • Lack of awareness about eating disorders within the community and availability of resources, both within and outside, to reach out for support.

Symptoms of eating disorders

Listed below are some of the symptoms of eating disorders displayed by the LGBT individuals:

  • Restrictive food habits, eating only specific type of food
  • Hesitant to eat in front of others
  • Cooking for others but might avoid eating
  • Sudden disappearance of food or throwing away
  • Avoiding people due to the fear of being labeled as thin or fat or that something is wrong with them
  • Obsession with food, weight and body shape

People belonging to the LGBT community often struggle with a great sense of guilt and the constant urge to gain acceptance might push them toward eating disorders. Some of the ways other people can help them are:

  • Reading extensively about eating disorders before confronting an LGBT person struggling with it
  • Talking about the problem compassionately, but firmly
  • Trying to address the underlying cause of the problem
  • Offering to help by taking them to a nutritionist or mental health expert

Road to recovery

Bulimia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder characterized by excessive eating over a short period followed by purging and forced vomiting to avoid gaining weight. A person might get frantic about the whole episode and engage in excessive exercising or fasting to feel better. Like other eating disorders, bulimia too can be caused due to low self-confidence, stressful life events and in some cases, due to the demands of a profession. If left untreated, the condition can cause severe damage to overall health.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), more than 20 million women and 10 million men in the U.S. will grapple with an eating disorder at least once in their lifetime. Timely diagnosis and effective management significantly improves the probability of recovery. However, if the disorder is not adequately treated or remains untreated, it can be disastrous. Apparently, two of the most widespread causes of death among individuals with eating disorders are congestive heart failure and suicide. Fortunately, eating disorders are manageable through psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.

If you or a loved one is suffering from any eating disorder or a mental illness, contact the Recover Mental Health specialists to get instant help. The representatives can connect you to the best bulimia rehab center in your vicinity. Call us at our 24/7 helpline 866-593-2339 or chat online with one of our representatives for more information on some of the renowned eating disorder treatment centers across the country.

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