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The 2020 election was one of the most hostile and divisive elections in American history. While the election was stressful for society as a whole, there are certain populations, primarily minorities, that were likely impacted more by the election. While it may seem that societal issues wouldn’t influence eating disorder behaviors, this certainly isn’t true.
2020 Election Effect on Minority Eating Disorder
In fact, the groups most likely to have struggled the most with eating disorder behaviors are also the groups whose rights and safety were most at risk. While there were several political topics that were the focus of the 2020 presidential race, issues related to safety for Black people and the LGBTQ+ community were one of the most important.
It is widely understood that disordered eating and exercise can be a way to cope with emotional distress . Marginalized communities are shown to struggle with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress, as a result of societal and political injustice .
This means that due to ongoing systemic racism and prejudice, certain communities are more likely to struggle with mental health issues, including eating disorders . Unfortunately, these communities tend to be underserved within the mental health system. This is concerning considering that transgender individuals are significantly more likely to develop an eating disorder than cisgender people .
Similarly, gay or bisexual men are shown to struggle more with body image than straight men . Since negative body image is one of the biggest things that can feed into disordered eating, this is important for eating disorder professionals to be aware of.
Black, Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) are less likely to receive treatment for an eating disorder even though there are similar rates of these conditions compared to non-people of color . These statistics are further evidence that the mental health systems reflect the prejudice towards LGBTQ+ and BIPOC that are deeply rooted throughout the United States.
Outcomes and Dealing with the Challenges
It is important for the people and communities suffering from enduring these oppressive systems to find ways to continue taking care of themselves. This may feel like an empty and shallow suggestion, but Audre Lorde, a feminist and civil rights activist, discussed how self-care is a form of political warfare .
Self-care in the midst of oppression is an act of resistance and a way to maintain resilience. This is really important for coping with symptoms of mental illness and stress. According to Sana Powell, a woman of color and psychotherapist, self-care is a way to mentally, emotionally, and physically nurture ourselves . There are several ways to do this, and self-care is most effective when it is done regularly.
However, it is not the responsibility of those suffering to transform the system. All eating disorder professionals need to get education and training about how to best assist these underserved populations.
Through anti-racist and diversity training, mental health systems can be transformed. Given the mortality rate of eating disorders, it is critical to do this. Without this transformation, the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals and BIPOC will continue to be at risk.
Resources: National Eating Disorders Association. (2018). Statistics and Research on Eating Disorders. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/statistics-research-eating-disorders  The Curly Therapist. (2020, June 22). Self-care as political resistance. https://curlytherapist.com/2020/06/22/self-care-as-political-resistance/
About the Author:
Samantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published December 21, 2020, on EatingDisorderHope.com
Reviewed & Approved on December 21, 2020, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC