Inclusive Treatment for LGBTQ Community

Walden proudly welcomes all members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community. Regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, our goal is to provide every individual with the highest level of support through inclusive and compassionate treatment.

Eating Disorders in the LGBTQ Community

Several studies show the risk of developing an eating disorder is higher in the LGBTQ community. This may be reflective of common psychological and environmental issues LGBTQ people can face including discrimination, fear of rejection, social isolation and the discordance between one’s sex assigned at birth and gender identity.

Additionally, those who identify as LGBTQ may face an increased risk of mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, and a higher incidence of suicide attempts compared with the general population. These factors can amplify the risk of developing an eating disorder, though risk can vary based on how the individual identifies.

Eating Disorders in Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Individuals

Only 3% of American men identify as being gay or bisexual, but 42% of American men with eating disorders identify as gay or bisexual, according to the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

Gay and bisexual men are believed to have a higher incidence of eating disorders than straight men due to similar concerns around body image. The gay community often feels increased pressure to be attractive to other men in a way that is not experienced in heterosexual males. This pressure is often equated to that of heterosexual women hoping to attract heterosexual males.

Research referenced by NEDA shows that beginning as young as age 12, gay, lesbian and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge eating and purging, compared with heterosexuals. Other studies found that both adolescent females and males who identify as lesbian/gay, bisexual and “mostly heterosexual” experience binge eating and purging episodes more frequently than their heterosexual peers.

Gay men who are in stable relationships or who feel accepted by the gay community are less likely to have eating disorders, according to a study in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. However, symptoms of bulimia are more common in gay men who are in relationships, while symptoms of anorexia are more common in single gay men, according to Eating Disorder Hope.

Eating Disorders in Transgender Individuals

Some studies reveal a higher rate of disordered eating among transgender people, compared with other LGBTQ people and heterosexual cisgender (those whose identity and gender align with the sex that was assigned to them at birth) individuals.

Eating disorders in transgender individuals occur quite frequently due to a number of factors including the desire to change one’s body, severe body dissatisfaction and efforts to relieve symptoms of co-morbid psychological conditions.

Research from the Journal of Adolescent Health shows transgender youth are more susceptible than cisgender straight or gay peers to developing eating disorders. Another study from the Journal discovered transgender youth are four times more likely than cisgender, heterosexual and female adolescents to report eating disorder behavior, and twice as likely to abuse weight loss pills and engage in self-induced vomiting.

Research from Washington University in St Louis reveals that eating disorders are five times more prevalent in transgender college students than their cisgender peers.

Treatment for LGBTQ Individuals With Eating Disorders

Sometimes LGBTQ people may find it difficult to find the proper level of support and understanding around their eating disorders. At that same time, many might be feeling a myriad of emotions around gender identity, sexuality issues and other intense feelings. It can be an incredibly overwhelming and challenging time.

Our treatment team and support staff continues to learn from and work with the LGBTQ community to provide treatment that is inclusive and strength-based. Our full system of care includes:

In our Amherst, Mass., South Windsor, Conn., and Guilford, Conn. clinics, lower levels of care include a dedicated treatment track and programming specific to LGBTQ populations. This includes:

  • Process groups deepening support around gender, sexual orientation, family/relationships, body image and other LGBTQ-specific issues
  • Skills building aimed at self-acceptance, validation and stabilization of disordered eating behaviors
  • Psychoeducation on co-occurring risk factors
  • Access to invaluable LGBTQ community resources

Walden Is A Safe and Inclusive Space For You to Heal.

We realize that considering treatment can be a daunting process. We recognize that finding healthcare facilities who understand and have experience working with the LGBTQ population can be difficult. As such, we do our very best to continue to improve upon our own education in the area and to treat each individual with the respect, empathy and tolerance they deserve.

Regain Your Life. Walden Can Help.

We have clinics throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and Georgia. Our 14 locations include two inpatient units, a residential facility and 11 ambulatory care clinics. Individuals can receive care at clinics and hospitals located in Amherst, Braintree, Milford, Peabody, Waltham and Worcester, Mass.; Guilford, South Windsor and Vernon, Conn., and Alpharetta, Decatur and Dunwoody, Ga.

If you are concerned that you – or a loved one – may have an eating disorder, we are here to help. Please call 781-647-6727 to speak with a Walden eating disorders intake specialist, or complete the form on this page, to start the road to recovery.

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