Diversity in Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders Don’t Discriminate!

Culture, Race & Ethnicity

  • The rate of eating disorders is similar among Non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians in the United States.

LGBTQ Community

  • 15 percent of gay & bisexual men reported having a full or sub-threshold eating disorder at some point in their life, versus 4.6 percent of straight males
  • Gay males are 7x more likely to binge & 12x more likely to purge than straight males
  • Members of the LGBT community are at a higher risk of developing bulimia and anorexia nervosa
  • In the United States, approximately 3% of men identify as being gay or bisexual; however, studies show that up to 42% of men who present with eating disorders identify as being gay or bisexual
  • Lesbian women report higher levels of self-esteem regarding their body & sexual attractiveness. They also have a decreased tendency to adopt cultural standards for physical appearance

Men & Eating Disorders

  • Between 5% and 20% of male university students are at risk for an eating disorder
  • The typical age of onset for eating disorders in men is at 14 to 16 years of age

There are important differences in the way men experience eating & exercise disorders.  According to Dr. Roberto Olivardia, researcher & co-author of The Adonis Complex, males tend to:

  • Experience greater weight fluctuations than females
  • Are more likely to be overweight or obese at the start of the eating disorder
  • Have a clearer perception of their ideal body weight
  • Pursue leanness & muscularity over thinness per se
  • Binge more often, especially on carbohydrates
  • Exercise excessively
  • Have an increased prevalence for substance abuse
  • Have more sexual conflicts
  • Be less likely to seek treatment

Age & Eating Disorders

While it was once believed that eating & body image concerns were limited to adolescent or young adult females, research tells us that in the past decades…

  • More women of diverse ages are admitting that they struggle with body image & disordered eating
  • While the reasons for this are complex & not yet fully understood, we know that in today’s contemporary society, women experience unprecedented stress due to:
    • Rapidly changing roles in a globalized consumer culture
    • Strict cultural standards regarding women, weight, & appearance
    • Unattainable media images
    • Current fear of obesity
  • Ways body image & disordered eating may “look” different for older populations:
    • Shame & embarrassment for having a “teenager’s problem”
    • More years speaking the “language of fat”
    • Greater difficulty admitting the need for help
    • More motivation for treatment
    • Greater awareness of what they have lost due to their eating or body image issues
    • More obstacles to treatment due to other responsibilities
    • Increased anxiety about appearance/ health due to natural aging process
    • Multiple stressors & losses that accompany adult development.
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