Eating Disorders and the LGBT CommunityFor the month of June, Castlewood is focusing our #ColorfulRecovery Campaign on the issue of eating disorders within the LGBT community. The entire purpose of this campaign is to educate, inform, make aware, and ultimately make a difference—changing minds, one life at a time, and trusting that this will have a ripple effect throughout our world. There is much reason for us to raise awareness for eating disorders among LGBT individuals, as the problem is both rampant and all too often misunderstood.
Understanding Eating Disorders in the LGBT CommunityThe common misconception about eating disorders is that they only impact young, white, straight women. If you have read our blog even a little bit then you know that this is not the case, that in fact eating disorders can impact anyone of any age, race, gender, or sexual orientation. Actually, there is ample research to suggest that eating disorders disproportionately affect those in the LGBT community. Why would this be the case? Keep in mind that eating disorders are not really about food—not at their heart. In fact, genetics, psychological factors, social experiences, interactions and different stressors can often trigger eating disorders. Many unique stressors are experienced within the LGBT community. Just a partial list includes the pressure of coming out to family members; the fear of harassment and bullying in the workplace and in society; and different levels of social anxiety that can also trigger depression and low self-esteem. These stressors can also drive the individual to unhealthy coping mechanisms. In some cases, this might mean a drug or alcohol addiction. In other cases, it might result in an eating disorder—a way to exert control over something that might otherwise seem uncontrollable, through the ritualization of eating habits.
Eating Disorders and CultureTo phrase all of this a bit differently, eating disorders within the LGBT population must be understood in terms of the broader context—in terms of a culture of fear and oppression. Some specific points to consider here include:
- The fear of rejection in coming out—or, in some cases, actual experience with rejection.
- Internalized negativity about oneself over non-traditional gender identification, etc.
- Harassment and abuse, whether verbal (“gay bashing” words) or physical.
- Experiences with discrimination in school, at work, or elsewhere.
- Being victimized or bullied.
- An experience with homelessness (an alarmingly high percentage of those who are homeless identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender).