College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Spring 6-8-2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)



First Advisor

Shannon Simonovich, DNP

Second Advisor

Sierra Bushe, DNP


Transgender individuals with eating disorders face severe and potentially fatal health risks, yet there is little known research on the needs of this vulnerable population. Eating disorders affect at least 30 million people in the United States, and have the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses. Research to date suggests that transgender people may suffer disproportionately from disordered eating, and has shown the attempted suicide rate among transgender individuals to be five-to-ten times higher than the general population. No known study to date has described eating disorders in the transgender population from a qualitative perspective. The purpose of the study was to describe the lived experience of transgender individuals with eating disorders. Semi-structured, open-ended interviews were conducted with transgender participants with eating disorders over age 18. Inductive thematic analysis illuminated the intersection of transgender identity and disordered eating. Three themes were identified: presentation and perception; autonomy and control; and support. The findings suggest transgender individuals may experience eating disorders differently than cisgender individuals. Many improvements to clinical practice for this population were identified, including using patients’ preferred gender pronouns, receiving training in cultural and clinical competency in transgender health, and facilitating access to gender-affirming interventions. Supporting individuals in the self-determination of their gender identity in social, community, family, and healthcare systems is fundamental to successful prevention, intervention, and treatment of eating disorders in transgender populations.

SLP Collection


Included in

Nursing Commons