Eating disorders including 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.
‘Transgenders live with a crisis within themselves and this dissatisfaction related to the body shape and weight makes them vulnerable to developing eating disorders.’
Transgenders, who often identify themselves with a different gender than the one assigned to them at birth, live with a crisis within themselves and this dissatisfaction related to the body shape and weight makes them vulnerable to developing eating disorders.
Hormone or cross-sex hormone treatment can improve body dissatisfaction, tone down levels of perfectionism and anxiety, and boost self-esteem, and in turn alleviate eating disorder symptoms in transgenders, the researchers said.
"Young transgender people may restrict their food as a way to control their puberty, stop their period or reduce the development of breasts. Hormone treatment might be able to improve eating disorder symptoms in this population," said Jon Arcelus, Professor at the University of Nottingham in the UK.
Besides eating disorder, transgenders seeking gender affirming treatment are also more likely to suffer with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
For the study, published in the journal European Eating Disorders Review, the team surveyed more than 560 transgenders, over the age of 17 years, 139 of which began the hormone treatment.
The results showed that those not taking the hormone treatment were significantly more likely to report their need to be thin and be dissatisfied with their physique which further affected personal relationships and depression and anxiety.
Thus, eating disorder professionals should consider the gender identity of the person when assessing a person with symptoms of an eating disorders, the study suggested.