Nav: Home

Hormone therapy may reduce eating disorder symptoms in transgender people

January 11, 2018

The study was led by academics at the universities of Nottingham and Loughborough who recommend that clinicians working at eating disorder services should assess patients for gender identity issues and refer them to transgender health services to be evaluated for hormone treatment.

Professor Jon Arcelus, of the Institute of Mental Health, based at the University of Nottingham, and at the Nottingham Centre for Transgender Health, was one of the lead authors on the research, which has been published in the European Eating Disorders Review.

He said: "Young transgender people may restrict their food as a way to control their puberty, stop their period or reduce the development of breasts. Eating disorder professionals should consider the gender identity of the person when assessing a person with symptoms of an eating disorders."

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.

This dissatisfaction in body shape and weight can be even more distressing for transgender people who identify with a different gender than the one assigned to them at birth, leaving them potentially more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder.

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.

Within the non-trans population, negative emotions such as anxiety and depression and low self-esteem fuel the relationship between body dissatisfaction and problems with eating behaviours. As research has consistently shown that transgender people seeking gender affirming treatment who are not on hormone treatment yet, are much more likely to suffer with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression that cis gender (non transgender) people, this places them at greater risk of developing an eating disorder.

Evidence from one previous study showed that eating disorder symptoms were found to reduce in transgender women once they had progressed through their medical transition. However, the study was limited as it looked at a small number of participants, only at transgender women and only considered the role of surgery, not hormone therapy.

The latest research looked at more than 560 patients over the age of 17 who were recruited while attending an assessment at a national transgender health service in the UK between 2012 and 2015. Just under 25 per cent of the 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 on issues including eating-relate symptoms self-esteem, depression and anxiety and body dissatisfaction and perfectionism.

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.

Professor Arcelus added: "These findings help to clarify the mechanisms through which hormone treatment might be able to improve eating disorder symptoms in this population. They suggest that hormones primarily improves body dissatisfaction, which in turn reduces levels of perfectionism and symptoms of anxiety, and increases self-esteem. In combination, these factors then appear to alleviate eating disorder symptoms.

"This is the first study with transgender people that has been able to indicate how cross-sex hormones alleviate eating disorder symptoms, although this finding needs to be replicated with more longitudinal research."

The researchers believe that offering access to specialist transgender services is imperative as the results show that for many transgender people who are unhappy with their body, cross sex hormone treatment is very effective.

However, they say that further research is needed to include the increasing numbers of transgender people who identify outside the binary gender system, for example, gender neutral, non-gender, bigender and third gender.
-end-
The research was part of Beth Jones' PhD co-supervised by Professor Jon Arcelus, Dr Emma Haycraft and Dr Walter Bouman.

More information is available from Prof Jon Arcelus in the School of Medicine, University of Nottingham on +44 (0)115 0115 7484098, jon.arcelus@nottingham.ac.uk; or Emma Thorne, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Communications Office at The University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Globelynx fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at University Park campus. For further information please contact a member of the Communications team on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email mediahub@nottingham.ac.uk or see the Globelynx website for how to register for this service.

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is 'the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a "distinct" approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.' (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world's top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world's greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University's vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news...

University of Nottingham

Related Depression Articles:

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.
Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
Post-natal depression in dads linked to depression in their teenage daughters
Fathers as well as mothers can experience post-natal depression -- and it is linked to emotional problems for their teenage daughters, new research has found.
Being overweight likely to cause depression, even without health complications
A largescale genomic analysis has found the strongest evidence yet that being overweight causes depression, even in the absence of other health problems.
Don't let depression keep you from exercising
Exercise may be just as crucial to a depression patient's good health as finding an effective antidepressant.
Having an abortion does not lead to depression
Having an abortion does not increase a woman's risk for depression, according to a new University of Maryland School of Public Health-led study of nearly 400,000 women.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Clint Smith
The killing of George Floyd by a police officer has sparked massive protests nationwide. This hour, writer and scholar Clint Smith reflects on this moment, through conversation, letters, and poetry.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Nina
Producer Tracie Hunte stumbled into a duet between Nina Simone and the sounds of protest outside her apartment. Then she discovered a performance by Nina on April 7, 1968 - three days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Tracie talks about what Nina's music, born during another time when our country was facing questions that seemed to have no answer, meant then and why it still resonates today.  Listen to Nina's brother, Samuel Waymon, talk about that April 7th concert here.