LGBTIQA+ people at greater risk of eating disorders: research

LGBTIQA+ people are at greater risk of eating disorders, with 23% of trans people having a current or past diagnosis, according to new research.

Two in three trans people report limiting their eating because of issues around gender.

The findings have been released by eating disorder charity Butterfly Foundation for its new An Eating Disorder Looks Like Me campaign.

The awareness campaign challenges stereotypes to show that eating disorders have no specific ‘look’ in terms of gender, body shape, age, or other presentation.

It found that 90% of Australians are not confident they could recognise the signs of an eating disorder, and a quarter believe they are a choice rather than a mental illness.

Over half of the people surveyed believe incorrectly that only young women are affected – whereas over one in three are men, and people of all ages are affected.

Three quarters of people living with an eating disorder do not seek professional help due to stigma and stereotyping.

Butterfly Foundation Head of Communications & Engagement Melissa Wilton said that eating disorders are widely misunderstood in the broader community.

“We know that right now in Australia, more than one million people, or 4% of the population, live with eating disorders,” said Wilton. 

“Eating disorders affect men, women, people from the LGBTIQA+ community, young people, older people, and people from all sorts of different cultural backgrounds.

“It needs to be made very clear that eating disorders do not have a specific look, nor do they discriminate.”

The new campaign focuses on the eating disorder stories of diverse members of the community.

CEO Kevin Barrow said that the holidays can be a difficult time for people with eating disorders.

“We’re using this time of year to raise awareness, spark conversations, and tackle stigma head on,” said Barrow. 

“And in the spirit of giving, [we’re] seeking donations to Butterfly so we can continue to provide critical services that help in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.”

People concerned about disordered eating in themselves or a loved one can speak to their GP to access professional psychological help or contact the Butterfly Foundation Helpline on 1800 ED HOPE.

If you or someone you know needs support, you can also refer to our list of community services and resources.

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