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Eating Disorders Are More Common For Transgender Youth

For many years, eating disorders were historically associated with women who were young, straight and white. Yet, issues surrounding body image and eating behavior actually affect people from all demographic backgrounds. Healthcare professionals are increasingly aware that eating disorders are a challenging mental health condition for a wide variety of people. These mental health concerns appear among all socio-economic, sexual orientations and ethnic backgrounds.

In particular, the rates of individuals who suspect that they have an undiagnosed eating disorder are much higher for the LGBTQ+ community. If one does a deeper analysis of the term LGBTQ+, transgender individuals appear to have the highest rate of eating disorders.

However, much of this population often go without professional treatment or medical care. Transgender people may forgo receiving treatment due to a lack of access to healthcare, financial pressures or discrimination. Some transgender individuals have reported negative feelings after interacting with healthcare providers. At times, there is a feeling that healthcare practitioners are not sensitive to the psychological and medical needs of transgender patients.

Recent studies are starting to indicate that transgender people, particularly the youth, are more susceptible to developing eating disorders. Researchers suggest that prejudice, harassment and unstable home environments for transgender youth are some of the reasons for the higher rate of eating disorders among this population.

Research published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that transgender youth were four times more likely than cisgender, heterosexual, female peers to report a diagnosed eating disorder and twice as likely to report abusing weight loss pills and engaging self-induced vomiting.

One theory for this disturbingly high rate among transgender youth is that these individuals are unhappy with their physical appearance. They have eating behaviors that are perhaps attempting to halt the development of certain physical features that do not match their gender identity.

A recent Canadian study surveyed 923 transgender youth between the ages of 14 to 25 who were scattered across the country. The survey found that, as a sexual minority, these youth experienced a much higher rate of harassment and discrimination. Also, out of the youth surveyed, there was a higher prevalence of eating disorders among individuals who had reported experiencing harassment and discrimination.

According to Dr. Judith Brisman, founder of the Eating Disorder Resource Center, eating disorders reflect how someone feels about themselves. Dr. Brisman states that transgender women appear to have more concerns with body image versus other transgender groups. Dr. Brisman agrees with previous studies that suggest that transgender youth are using restrictive eating behaviors in an attempt to control their body’s appearance in order to achieve a beauty ideal that is nearly impossible to attain.

Another study examined self-reported eating disorders among American college students and the associations of sexual orientation and gender identity. This research also discovered elevated rates of eating disorder behaviors among transgender, cisgender and other sexual minority populations.

It is clear that eating disorders impact all people. However, research indicates that the LGBTQ+ community is at a heightened risk of developing eating-related disorders.  In the transgender community, especially the youth, are particularly vulnerable to eating disorders. What is needed is a safe and accepting environment that helps transgender youth feel connected to others and provides protection from harmful stigmas.

About us:

For additional information about eating disorder treatments in the LGBTQ+ community, contact the River Centre Clinic. Their medical facility provides experienced treatment options for adults and adolescents. For questions and professional help with eating disorders call 877-212-5457 or 419-885-8800.

They are located in Northwest Ohio in the town of Sylvania and provides state-of-the-art treatment location in a modern, spacious and tranquil setting. River Centre Clinic is designed to provide a safe and attractive alternative to hospital-based programs.

For online self-diagnosis, take River Centre Clinic’s EAT-26 assessment. The Eating Attitudes Test is quick and provides anonymous feedback.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

Transgender Youth, LGBTQ+, Eating Disorders

Contributor: ABCS RCM

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Eating Disorders Among Minorities

When the term eating disorder is mentioned, there is usually a specific mental image that comes to mind. Traditionally, the stereotypical person with this type of mental health issue is a young, wealthier Caucasian female. Mass media and pop culture images usually reinforce the portrayal of hyper-thin, white women who are suffering from the effects of conditions like anorexia nervosa. However, this stereotype that eating disorders only inflect younger, white women is not correct.

Eating disorders are usually placed into four overall categories: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED). Other mental health issues are also commonly assisted with these eating disorders such as general anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, bipolar disorder and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

The American Psychiatric Association defines an eating disorder as an illness where people experience severe disturbances in their eating behaviors. They also have problems related to the regulation of thoughts and emotions, usually becoming obsessed with food consumption and their body weight. The prevalence of reported eating disorders, with the exception of anorexia nervosa, is similar among Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asian Americans in the United States.

Decades ago, American societal portrayals of eating disorders were almost always shown as a white-woman problem. Shockingly, this misconception was also maintained by physicians and other healthcare professionals.

For example, behavioral health research from 2006 challenged the notion that African-American women were less likely to develop eating disorders. In this study, healthcare providers read 1 of 3 passages describing disturbed eating patterns of a fictional patient named Mary. The only differences between the passages were that the patient’s race, which was randomly changed for each provider. This meant that every fictional patient’s symptoms were identical, with only the person’s race randomly rotating between African-American, Caucasian, or Hispanic.

Healthcare professionals were then asked to diagnosis the patient’s level of depression, anxiety as well as whether an eating disorder might exist. In cases of a white racial profile, the eating behavior was considered problematic 44% of the time. For Hispanic profiles, the behavior was considered problematic in 41% of the cases. Surprisingly, when the patient was identified as African American, the eating behavior was identified as problematic in only 17% of the cases. The study’s final results suggested that healthcare clinicians appear to hold race-based stereotypes about eating disorders that could limit their detection of symptoms in African-American girls.

The results of the 2006 study reinforced earlier research from 2002 which found that the race of adolescent girls had a significant impact on the detection of disturbed eating patterns. In this study, undergraduate college students recognized the existence of an eating disorder more often when they read about a Caucasian female, rather than when they read about a minority female (Hispanic or African American) with the same behavior.

National statistics indicate that eating disorders predominantly occur in white females, but many eating disorder professionals increasingly believe that the data is skewed. Women of color have likely been alienated from personal support networks. In addition, healthcare professionals use to believe that African-American and Hispanic women were somehow more immune to eating disorders.

Until recently, people with an African American racial identify were underrepresented in treatment centers and research studies about eating disorders. Gathering quality data was more of a challenge due to societal misperceptions and prejudice. Now it is clear that perceptions of body image and disordered eating patterns are not just problems for young, white women.

Here is some additional information on eating disorders and minorities:

It is clear that eating disorders do not only occur in certain racial or socioeconomic groups. Race, ethnicity and/or socioeconomic status does not make individuals immune to these health conditions. In the past, eating disorders were primarily associated with heterosexual, young, white females. In fact, these mental health issues affect people from all demographics and ethnicities at similar rates. However, minority groups (particularly African Americans) are significantly less likely to receive help for eating disorder problems.

Regardless of one’s racial or ethnic identity, treating and recovering from an eating disorder takes time as well as professional help. An experienced mental health professional can help a person understand the origins of this behavior, whether it is an eating disorder as well as acquire coping skills.

For additional information or questions about this topic, please contact the staff at River Centre Clinic (RCC). Their Eating Disorders Programs provide a full range of treatment options for both adolescents and adults. The River Centre Clinic’s main phone number is 1.877.212.5457.

Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26)

The EAT-26 is the most widely cited standardized self-report screening measure that may be able to help you determine if you have an eating disorder that needs professional attention. Take the EAT-26 now and get immediate and anonymous feedback.

Follow us on Twitter:  @River_Centre

Eating Disorders, Minorities

Contributor: ABCS RCM

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