This review summarizes recent research on eating disorders among gender minorities, transgender and gender diverse people. The focus is on research published in 2022 and the first half of 2023.
Up to 1.2% of young people and 0.3–0.5% of adults identify as transgender, and 2.7–8.4% of young people and 0.3–4.5% of adults report some degree of gender diversity. About 20–50% of transgender and gender diverse people report engaging in disordered eating and >30% screen positive for eating disorder symptoms, and 2–12% have received an eating disorder diagnosis from a health professional. Many transgender and gender diverse people describe eating disorder symptoms as a way of coping with gender dysphoria. They also report high levels of mental and behavioral symptoms, particularly mood and anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts and behaviors, trauma-related symptoms and disorders, alcohol and substance use, and autism. Gender minorities frequently experience discrimination, victimization, and violence, primarily sexual and physical violence. The minority stress model attributes mental health symptoms to these factors. Promising interventions based on the minority stress model have recently become available, but more research is needed on how to support transgender and gender diverse people with eating disorders. To manage eating disorders in this population, gender-affirming care should be combined with specialist eating disorder treatment.
Gender minorities are at high risk for eating disorders. Future studies should assess what is the most appropriate treatment for transgender and gender diverse people with eating disorders.