How hormone therapy can treat eating disorders among transgenders

Eating disorders such as anorexia and misuse of diet pills among transgenders have been linked to their unhappiness with their body. Now, a new study says that hormone therapy could reduce these feelings of body dissatisfaction.

fitness Updated: Jan 13, 2018 12:25 IST
Press Trust of India
Hormone therapy,Transgender,Health
In the case of transgender males (assigned female at birth but who identify as male) who are not on hormone treatment, some may even restrict what they eat as a way of stopping menstruation.(Shutterstock)

Hormone therapy may help reduce feelings of body dissatisfaction associated with eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia in transgenders, a study has found. Eating disorders such as anorexia, bingeing, self- induced vomiting and the misuse of diet pills and laxatives have been linked to people’s deep-seated unhappiness with their body, fuelled by Western society’s obsession with an idealised image of beauty.

For some transgender people, striving to achieve a masculine or feminine body shape can influence their eating behaviours. While in the case of transgender males (assigned female at birth but who identify as male) who are not on hormone treatment, some may even restrict what they eat as a way of stopping menstruation.

“Young transgender people may restrict their food as a way to control their puberty, stop their period or reduce the development of breasts,” said Jon Arcelus, from the University of Nottingham in the UK. “Eating disorder professionals should consider the gender identity of the person when assessing a person with symptoms of an eating disorders,” Arcelus said.

For the study published in the journal European Eating Disorders Review, the researchers looked at more than 560 patients over the age of 17. Just under 25% of patients (139) had already started hormone treatment prior to the assessment, accessing the treatment through a range of avenues, for example, through private healthcare providers or the internet.

The patients were asked to provide information about their age, gender assigned at birth and whether they were on hormone treatment before being invited to complete a number of questionnaires. The data was analysed and results showed that the patients not on hormone treatment were significantly more likely to report their need to be thin, coupled with bulimic behaviours.

This was also strongly connected to issues with body dissatisfaction, a preoccupation with perfectionism, experience of trust issues in personal relationships and depression and anxiety.

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First Published: Jan 13, 2018 12:25 IST