Are We Failing At Fighting Eating Disorders in LGBTQ+ and Minority Communities?
Eating disorders are not very common in the minority and LGBTQ+ communities worldwide. The reason is not the absence of eating disorders among these population but the disproportionate treatment of the problem.
Even today, the stereotypical image of a person with an eating disorder is that of a young female Caucasian. In addition, such women are well-educated and belong to the upper socio-economic class. But thanks to the growing awareness that these stereotypes are being taken down slowly but surely.
Firstly we will question, make visible and collapse the uneven representation of eating disorders. Secondly, we will study the quality of help available in the minority and LGBTQ+ communities.
Are Eating Disorders Biased?
Eating disorders are severe mental disorders. Many factors include these disorders, including genetic predisposition, environmental stressors, neurobiology, social stressors, work-related problems and many more.
Eating disorders do not discriminate certainly. The disorders affect people irrespective of their age, gender, socio-economic status, nationality, culture, or race. Eating disorders have been identified worldwide, including ethnic minority groups, displaying the non-bias of these illnesses.
What Is The Problem?
The problem is the underrepresentation of eating disorders in the minority and LGBTQ+ communities. Therefore, people of colour and individuals from the trans or queer community fail to get the right mental health services. Above all, there is a pressing need for inclusivity and unifying the codes of mental healthcare.
Awareness about eating disorders has improved in first world countries. But there still are misconceptions concerning the types of individual who may have an eating disorder. As a result, eating disorders in men, people of colour and individuals in the LGBTQ community are not identified. They are at the risk of facing greater barriers to professional help.
People of colour and individuals in the LGBTQ community face unique challenges that may put them at greater risk for developing an eating disorder.
And the representation of the mental wellbeing services they get is again not up to the standards.
What Does the Data Say?
According to the National Eating Disorders Association, research shows that LGBTQ+ teenagers are at comparatively higher risk of eating disorders than their heterosexual peers.
Statistics also show that African American and Hispanic teenagers have a higher prevalence of unhealthy eating patterns compared to their Caucasian counterparts.
- African American teenagers are 50% more prone to bulimic behaviours than white teenagers.
- Doctors are less likely to ask about eating disorder symptoms to minority and LGBTQ+ communities even after they have disclosed their weight and diet concerns.
- In a study, Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian youth all reported attempting to lose weight at similar rates.
- Researchers found that Hispanic adolescents were significantly more likely to have bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers.
- Black and Hispanic women were found to have elevated risks for developing binge eating disorder.
We believe that everyone should have equal access to quality mental health services. If you or someone you love are living with an eating disorder, there is help here at Healingclouds.
Eating Disorders in The LGBTQ+ Communities
LGBTQ+ identified folks experience unique stressors that may contribute to the development of eating disorders.
“Research shows that, beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.”
Most importantly, eating disorders are about more than food. In psychological terms, an eating disorder may represent deep-seated fears, anxieties and phobias.
Potential factors that play a role in causing eating disorders-
- Rejection from family, friends, and/or peers
- Unfortunate incidents of mental and physical violence
- Internalised negative thoughts and belief systems about oneself
- Discrimination based on sexual preferences
- Biasness and bullying based on one’s gender identity
- The dissonance between biological sex and gender identification
- Inability to meet body image ideals in cultural contexts
- Inability to fit in the social brackets and roles
Unawareness Among Mental Healthcare Providers
The truth pill is hard to swallow. However, unfortunately, the stereotypes prevailing in our society affect healthcare providers. If not, there is a concerning lack of mental health professionals who deal with or specialises in dealing with the LGBTQ+ community.
People from these minority communities don’t get quality healthcare services. There is a pressing need to foster LGBTQ+ friendly environment and offer support and compassionate care.
We now know that not everyone with eating disorders and primarily anorexia is young and/or female. Research increasingly shows that eating disorders can happen to people of any race, ethnicity and sexuality.
In conclusion, we need to change this, and that begins with open-mindedness and eliminating assumptions. Therapists and counsellors need to check their biases and assumptions and promote competent practices for the unrepresented communities.