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Transgender Youth at Highest Risk for Eating Disorders

The mental struggles that transgender individuals face are unfathomable to most. Feeling that you were born in the wrong body creates an enormous amount of stress, but one new study has uncovered how this can transform into a high-risk eating disorder.

The Link to Eating Disorders

Findings released by the University of Washington – St. Louis, and published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, involved the collection of data from students in 223 U.S. colleges.

The research showed that rates of self-induced vomiting and abuse of laxatives or diet pills among transgender individuals were twice as high as their heterosexual peers.

Authors linked this behavior to the emotional distress that comes with facing discrimination.

Supportive Data

These University of Washington’s conclusions match a similar study that was conducted back in 2009 and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. Collecting data from 262 individuals – half of whom were transgender women and men – the scientists were able to conclude that transgender women had higher levels of disordered eating pathology than the heterosexual women in the study.

Meanwhile, transgender men reported a higher level of disordered eating than the heterosexual men in the study.

Gay Youth

Similar discoveries have also been made in studies related to eating disorders and gay youth overall.

The National Eating Disorders Association reports that gay and bisexual boys were seven times more likely to report binge eating and 12 times more likely to report purging than heterosexual males. And although gay men only represent 5 percent of the total male population, they make up a whopping 42 percent of American men struggling with eating disorders.

Lesbian and bisexual women were also found to be twice as likely to report binge eating as their heterosexual counterparts. Although they displayed less overall body dissatisfaction, they were at higher risk for binge eating and purging than straight women by as early as age 12.

Helping a Loved One

If you’re concerned that a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, here are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • Skipping meals or refusing to eat in front of other people
  • Reading food labels obsessively
  • Drastic weight loss or gain
  • Exercising compulsively
  • Patterns of becoming more moody or socially isolated

If your loved one displays any of the above symptoms, talk to them about your concerns and encourage them to seek help either through the assistance of a doctor, local support groups of inpatient treatment.

Let them know they’re not alone in battling their eating disorder. Your support could make all the difference in helping prevent a tragic outcome.


Additional Reading: 7 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Anorexia