Eating Disorder Recovery in the LGBTQ+ Community
Members of the LGBTQ+ community may find recovery especially difficult as they may experiences a diminished support system, increased stress from lack of support and acceptance of their identity, greater barriers to care and difficulty finding LGBTQ-competant providers. Here are some of the ways to navigate recovery and find support as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Self-compassion is the ongoing practice of relating to yourself kindly and fairly. There are many times where you might catch yourself speaking and thinking of yourself more harshly than anyone else. People are usually kinder to others than they are to themselves.
Despite this, being overly critical of yourself doesn’t help, in fact it can create a barrier to growth, happiness and recovery. It prolongs stress and suffering and can create a spiral downward back into the problematic coping mechanisms you’ve been working hard to avoid. It’s important that you don’t kick yourself when you’re already down, understand that your struggles aren’t new, acknowledge how you feel and foster an environment for yourself that is positive and productive.
Surround Yourself with Love
When you’re a part of the LGBTQ+ community, sometimes you are forced to choose new people to surround yourself with. If you have been put in a position where you need to find a new support system, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are millions of other LGBTQ+ people who have gone through what you have and allies who are already waiting to accept you as you are.
Shame, guilt, anxiety and loneliness are all emotions that an eating disorder can feed off of. While circumstances may still force you to be around those who are unaccepting or critical of your identity, it’s important that you have at least some individuals in your life you can turn to for unwavering support and comfort.
Deepen Connections in Your Community
Building quality connections within your community is vital to recovery. For some, this may mean getting involved directly with others digitally or locally in LGBTQ+ spaces. Building connections with LGBTQ+ peers and elders allows for history and experience sharing, community and resource building and charitable work. A sense of community has been linked to increased wellbeing, including combating isolation, heightening confidence and self-esteem in members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Others may opt to become more active in other communities related to other cultural identities or different pastimes. How often or how deeply you’re involved in your community is up to you. Your involvement shouldn’t become a burden, it should be something that helps alleviate stress and is enjoyable. For example, if you enjoy gardening, you can opt to just be active in gardening forums sharing tips and tricks, choose to cultivate a plot in your local community garden or do something in-between. The possibilities and level of involvement are completely up to you.
Seek Identity-Affirming Care
Not all providers are created equal. Unfortunately, there are still many providers and facilities across the United States that lack LGBTQ-competent and identity-affirming care, and many LGBTQ+ individuals have to put in extra effort to figure out whether a given provider is safe.
One valuable resource is the GLMA Provider Database. Previously known as the Gay & Lesbian Medical Association (but still using the acronym GLMA), Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality is the world's largest and oldest association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) healthcare professionals. While they do not screen members of their provider database, the database can be used as a jumping off point for finding affirming and compassionate care in your area.
If you have ties to your local LGBTQ+ community, reach out to LGBTQ+ community centers or organizations to see if they can connect you with an affirmative healthcare provider. You can also personally ask other members of your local community about their experiences with providers in the area: which ones do they go to, what were they like and which ones do they avoid?
Don’t Be Afraid to Re-Enter Treatment
Reentering treatment can be a difficult decision to make. A lot of people have certain expectations for themselves or compare their recovery journey to other’s. It’s important to remember that recovery journeys are not linear. It is not uncommon to have lapses in recovery or to need to re-enter medical stabilization or residential treatment. Oftentimes it’s better to reenter treatment than try to muscle through it by yourself. Re-entering treatment is not a failing, but rather a sign that you are committed to your long-term recovery.
Get Help for a Severe Eating Disorder
If you or someone you care about is experiencing severe medical complications due to an eating disorder, ACUTE can help. Reach out to us today to learn more about medical intervention for severe and extreme eating disorders with our experts at ACUTE. With proper, identity-affirming and LGBTQ-competent care provided by experienced experts, we can help you restore your weight and regain your health.
- Watson, R.J., Veale, J.F., Saewyc, E.M. (2017). Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Transgender Youth: Probability Profiles from Risk and Protective Factors. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 50(5), 515-522.
- Sense of Community “Important” to LGBT People, Sheffield Hallam University