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Mental health and body image in the LGBTQ+ community
While Pride month might be coming to a close, the conversation around mental health, and by extension, body image in the LGBTQ+ community is one that should be happening all year round.
With the exclusion, rejection, stigma, discrimination as well as the homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that many in the LGBTQ+ community face, it’s no wonder that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are some of the most at risk when it comes to mental health issues. This can, inevitably, have an impact on how people see themselves.
Body Image in the LGBTQ+ Community
As mentioned in our previous blog about the impact that body image has on happiness, low self-esteem can have a significant effect on your body image, which can then have further negative consequences for your mental health. It seems that in the LGBTQ+ community, this can, unfortunately, be quite common. According to a study by the mental health foundation on body image, “among adults who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or other, 53% felt anxious and 56% felt depressed because of their body image compared to one third (33%) of the adults who identified as heterosexual”.
So, it’s unsurprising, if not heartbreaking that, looking at research by NEDA, “beginning as early as 12, gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens may be at higher risk of binge-eating and purging than heterosexual peers.”
Particularly for gay and bisexual men, there’s a common pressure to be fit and muscular, due to the cultural importance that they place on having a good body for both themselves and potential partners, as well as the pressures of social media and online affirmation. Because of this, it can feel near impossible for many to be happy with their body.
And when it comes to the body image issues transgender people may experience, it can be even more of a complex conversation as for many, on top of the other problems related to body image, gender dysphoria is something that gives many extreme distress as their biological sex doesn’t align with their gender identity.
How can we make it better?
So, how can we put a stop to this horrible trend of body image issues? Ultimately, it comes down to how we talk about bodies, whether they’re the bodies of people we know or the bodies of celebrities and strangers. It’s important to think about the kind of language that you use to talk about your and other people's bodies! Chances are if you talk negatively about other bodies, you’ll apply the same level of judgement to your own. Plus, if we’re ever going to stop this negative culture of body shaming - it needs to stop.
The ways to improve your body image that we suggested in our previous blog on body image are just as applicable here, but here are a few more ways to help your perception of your body image:
- Learn to love bodies of all shapes and sizes - they’re all beautiful!
- Acknowledge your body for what it is and do your best to love it - it’s trying its best.
- Approach diet and exercise from a perspective of being healthy, strong and feeling good rather than losing weight or looking thinner.
- Focus on all the amazing things that your body helps you to do every single day - even if it’s just how your legs help you to walk around the world or how your hands help you to write with a pen on paper!
- If you find yourself experiencing significant body image concerns, talk to a professional and get yourself the help you need. Visit the Mental Health Foundation’s getting help page for more information.
Don’t forget, everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin - and that includes you.
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