Magazine article Addiction Professional

LGBT Youths Report Eating Disorders at Stunning Rate

Magazine article Addiction Professional

LGBT Youths Report Eating Disorders at Stunning Rate

Article excerpt

Because health concerns in the LGBT population generally are considered to be an under-researched topic, the release of any comprehensive data in this area rarely escapes notice in the professional community. In the case of results of a newly released survey on eating disorders among LGBT young people, however, these fresh numbers are both noteworthy and utterly staggering.

Cosponsored by the National Eating Disorders Association and unveiled as part of the annual awareness week activities that it spearheads in February, the survey of more than 1,000 young people ages 13 to 24 found that more than half (34%) had received an eating disorder diagnosis at some point in their young life. Moreover, of those individuals who had not received this diagnosis, 54% said they suspected they had an undiagnosed eating disorder.

Such numbers did not appear to surprise Philip McCabe, a health educator at the Rutgers University School of Public Health and president of NALGAP, The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies. However, McCabe tells Addiction Professional, "As a trainer on LGBT issues, I find many clinicians are surprised when I share information on eating disorders with gay and bisexual youth."

McCabe adds, "This raises several areas of concern-first, not all addiction professionals have received training on eating disorders. Unless the client self-discloses, it is not always included during the assessment."


The online survey also was conducted by Reasons Eating Disorder Center and The Trevor Project, the latter being an organization seeking to end suicide in the LGBT population. It took place from early January to early February of this year and included individuals identifying as a sexual orientation other than heterosexual and/or a gender identity other than cisgender, which is defined as identifying with one's gender of birth. A detailed questionnaire explored disordered eating diagnoses and behaviors, as well as any history of suicidal ideation or behavior.

The survey found that transgender youth face a disproportionate risk of having an eating disorder, with 71% of transgender respondents who identify as straight having been diagnosed with an eating disorder. However, cisgender LGBTQ females (the Qstands for both queer and questioning in the survey) reported the highest prevalence of eating disorder diagnoses of any gender identity in the survey, at 54%. By comparison, the prevalence of eating disorders among cisgender males was 31 %, and the prevalence of eating disorders among transgender females was 12%. …

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