Date on Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Honors Thesis
Psychological and Brain Sciences
College of Arts and Sciences
eating disorders; sexual minorities; gender minorities; body trust; interoceptive awareness; mental health
Introduction: Minority stress theory posits that sexual and gender minority individuals (SGM) may be at higher risk for poor mental health outcomes due to unique social experiences of stigma and discrimination. Interoception (i.e., awareness of one’s body and bodily sensations; Mehling et al., 2012) is a factor that has been linked to mental health broadly, however, SGM individuals may experience interoceptive awareness differently than cisgender and heterosexual individuals given experiences of stigma. In this paper, we aim to examine how two specific facets of interoceptive awareness (body listening and body trusting) relate to differences in mental health outcomes among SGM individuals and their cisgender/heterosexual (CH) counterparts. Methods: Undergraduate students (Total N = 952; CH n = 755; SGM n = 197) completed self-report measures of interoceptive awareness and mental health outcomes (i.e., eating disorder symptoms, depression, and anxiety). Results: MANOVA analyses with post-hoc univariate ANOVAs showed that relative to CH participants, SGM participants were significantly lower in not distracting (p < .05), self-regulation (p < .01), and body trusting (p < .001). Body trusting (ps < 001), but not body listening (ps > .14) were associated with all mental health outcomes. SGM status moderated the relationship between body trust and depression/worry, but not ED symptoms. Additional MANOVA models showed differences in interoceptive awareness among sexual orientation and gender identity subgroups (ps > .001). Discussion: These findings are an important step in understanding how SGM individuals may have a distinctly unique experience of interoceptive awareness compared to CH individuals, however, further research is necessary to determine the mechanisms through which these differences may operate. Further understanding of this experience is essential to provide informed and inclusive care to those who identify as SGM.
Roberts, Emma G., "Examining body trust and body listening in sexual and gender minorities." (2022). College of Arts & Sciences Senior Honors Theses. Paper 270.
Retrieved from https://ir.library.louisville.edu/honors/270
Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) are at high risk for mental health burdens due to unique social experiences of stigma and discrimination. One factor that has been linked to better mental health outcomes is interoceptive awareness. Interoceptive awareness is the awareness of one’s body and bodily sensations. SGM individuals may experience interoceptive awareness differently than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts due to the stigma that they are exposed to.
The current study aimed to analyze how interoceptive awareness, particularly body trust and body listening, impact mental health in SGM individuals. We found that SGM individuals were lower in not distracting, self-regulation, and body trusting. Body trust was significantly related to depression, worry, and eating disorder symptoms. Additionally, identifying as SGM moderated the relationship between body trust and depression/worry. These findings are an important step in understanding the differences between how SGM individuals experience their bodies and how cisgender and heterosexual individuals experience their bodies, and how that may impact their overall mental wellbeing.