A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Wolf Howl

Eating Disorders in LGBT Youth

As we make progress in understanding eating disorders in all adolescents, it is important to specifically acknowledge eating disorders in LGBT youth because they seem to be fighting a battle that differs from the struggles of heterosexual teenagers. Studies have shown that LGBT youth are experiencing stressfrom eating disorders at higher degree than heterosexuals. 

A common trigger for eating disorders is body dysmorphia, which arises in teens who don’t match society’s standards of beauty. Society has yet to appreciate people who break these high standards, which can be even more challenging for transgender teens. They often hear negative comments because they are transitioning from their biological gender to their desired gender. This can ignite a sense of displeasure in a person regarding their body.

Gay men are often portrayed in the media with muscular bodies and perfect skin – what society calls the ideal body type – however, this can be disconcerting to gay youths who are still growing into their own bodies.

Along with body dysmorphia, rejection is a common feeling that LGBT youth struggle with which has been linked to the emergence of eating disorders. Many LGBT teens know the feeling of being rejected by friends or family because of their sexual orientation. A lack of confidence or acceptance in one’s identity comes from both external and internal rejection. The unfortunate truth is that LBGT youth struggle with rejection daily.

Both the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) and the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) have presented data that shows some alarming trends. NAMI notes that teens often feel that their diet and eating habits are the only things within their control. NEDA states that lesbians and gays are more prone to binge-eating than straight teens, and that gay males were twelve times more likely to purge themselves than heterosexual males.

To curb the increase of eating disorders in LGBT teens, we must draw attention to the problem and understand the unique challenges surrounding LGBT youth.