Eating disorders can have a significant impact on individuals within the LGBTQ+ community. By understanding the prevalence of these mental illnesses and adopting a position of allyship, we can create an inclusive and empathetic environment for eating disorder recovery.
Did you know…
LGBTQ+ people are up to 3 times more likely to develop an eating disorder?
Around 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ people have experienced unequal healthcare treatment?
And that 1 in 7 have avoided it altogether for fear of discrimination?
Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can affect anyone, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. However, individuals of the LGBTQ+ community can face unique challenges in their journey towards treatment and recovery.
LGBTQ+ and minority ethnic adults and adolescents experience a higher incidence of eating disorders and disordered eating behaviours compared to their straight and cisgender peers.
This is because these communities often experience greater levels of stress, discrimination, violence, bullying, social pressure to conform and higher levels of isolation. LGBTQ+ individuals may also face barriers to accessing appropriate and inclusive treatment for eating disorders – due to a lack of awareness, understanding, or cultural competency among healthcare providers.
These challenges make LGBTQ+ individuals more likely to experience mental health struggles, especially if their identity isn’t affirmed by their loved ones or they have experienced trauma.
Similarly, each community may have additional pressures to conform to certain body standards, which can contribute to a heightened awareness of body image. As we mentioned in a previous blog, our relationship to our body is deeply personal. How we relate to our physical selves, and the experience we have within our own skin, is informed by so much, both explicitly or implicitly. For many, relating and finding connection again to our bodies can feel difficult, especially when an eating disorder has developed.
So, what can I do to be a supportive ally?
Being a supportive ally to LGBTQ+ individuals on their journey to eating disorder recovery is essential. Here are five ways you can provide support:
- Educate Yourself: Take the initiative to educate yourself about eating disorders, their prevalence within the LGBTQ+ community, and the specific challenges individuals may face. This knowledge will enable you to better understand their experiences and offer informed support
- Foster a Safe Environment: Create a safe and inclusive space for LGBTQ+ individuals to discuss their experiences and concerns related to eating disorders. Be their empathetic and non-judgmental listening ear
- Advocate for Inclusive Treatment: Advocate for inclusive eating disorder treatment options that address the specific needs and issues faced by LGBTQ+ individuals. Raise awareness within healthcare systems and support the development of resources and programmes that cater to their unique experiences. (Hint: here at Orri, we welcome clients of all backgrounds and recognise that no one person is the same; therefore recovery will look and feel different person to person. For more on our approach, click here)
- Promote Kindness Towards our Bodies: encourage body positivity, acceptance or neutrality, and challenge societal beauty standards that may contribute to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. Emphasise the value of self-acceptance, diversity, and self-care rather than focusing solely on appearance
- Support Mental Health Services: Advocate for increased access to LGBTQ+ affirming mental health services and recognise the importance of addressing underlying mental health issues alongside eating disorder recovery
Some of this sound familiar? You can find Orri’s EDAW 2023 campaign here, based on Men and Eating Disorders.
A note about Orri’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Movement, led by Senior Psychotherapist and Head of DEI, Romy Wakil:
Eating disorder treatment services are spaces that receive individuals who feel trapped within their own bodies as a result of their eating disorder. It is therefore pivotal that these services work towards challenging systems of oppression at a systemic level, to embody the value of equity in culturally responsive care that is at the heart of each client’s recovery journey.
The role of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team at Orri is to operate under the framework of allyship. We focus on recognising and thereby challenging systems of oppressions to ensure that people inhabiting all types of bodies feel seen and heard at Orri inclusive of gender, sexual orientation, race, faith-based beliefs, developmental and acquired disabilities.
Remember, everyone’s journey is unique, and reaching out to professionals and LGBTQ+ affirming resources can make a significant difference in the recovery process.
Together, we can help foster resilience, healing, and acceptance within the community.