The Highlands Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog
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How Eating Disorders Impact the LGBT Community

Each month, Castlewood at The Highlands uses our #1LifeAtATime campaign to highlight a specific facet of eating disorder recovery—an issue that needs to be showcased, or a community that needs to be better served. For the month of November, we’re focusing on how eating disorders impact members of the LGBT community. This is a major problem, and one where lives hang in the balance—but the good news is that we can all make a difference; we can spread the message of hope and recovery, changing things #1LifeAtATime. That process all starts with education and understanding, so please join us in a quick overview of eating disorders as they pertain to the LGBT community.

Eating Disorders Impact LGBT Individuals at a Disproportionate Rate

Eating disorders can happen to anyone, regardless of age, race, gender or sexual orientation. In other words, they are not just for young, straight, white girls, as has long been the media stereotype. While all of this is undoubtedly true, it’s also true to say that some populations are at a higher risk for eating disorders. Unfortunately, the LGBT community is disproportionately impacted by eating disorders. Why would this be the case? The answer lies in understanding what eating disorders really are—what they are ultimately about. Often it is assumed that they are fundamentally about food and eating, but this is a misconception. It is more accurate to say that eating disorders develop as a response to stress or to trauma—and therein lies an explanation of why they are so common within the LGBT community.

Stressors Cause LGBT Individuals to Face Eating Disorders

There are many stressors we could name that are unique to the LGBT experience—stressors that can in some cases lead to struggles with substance abuse, but in other cases lead to eating disorders. Consider just a few of these common stressors:
  • Anxiety about coming out, and the fear of rejection by family and friends.
  • Experiences being bullied, harassed, discriminated against, or even physically assaulted.
  • Internalized negativity concerning body image, gender norms, etc.
  • Discordance between sex assigned at birth and gender identity.
  • Struggles with homelessness, which is also a disproportionate problem among LGBT young people.
It should be noted that, in some parts of the country, these issues are exacerbated by a lack of proper education about eating disorders, and a lack of truly compassionate medical care. Ultimately, eating disorders can develop as a means of coping with these different forms of stress and trauma—a way to find solace and comfort and to exert control.

How Can We Address Eating Disorders in the LGBT Community?

These points may all be sobering, but it’s important to end with a call to action: We can all do things to make a difference and to spread a message of hope, particularly to those in the LGBT community. Some suggestions:
  • Spread the truth! Use social media to share posts like this one, raising awareness about this issue.
  • Speak up! Don’t let social stigma keep you from giving voice to your feelings and concerns about these matters.
  • Encourage anyone you know who is dealing with a mental health disorder to seek care, without any feelings of shame.
  • Become an ambassador of hope. Let anyone and everyone know that eating disorders can be treated, and recovery maintained.
Eating disorders within the LGBT community represent a problem, but not an insurmountable one. Together, we can make things better-- #1LifeAtATime. Spread the word by sharing this post on Facebook!

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