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Is An Eating Disorder Trauma

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Trauma Prevalence And Ptsd

An Eating Disorder Specialist Explains How Trauma Creates Food Disorders

There was no significant difference between AN and BN patients with regard to the lifetime prevalence of trauma = 1.89, p = .17) . In both groups, the conditions for the A2-criterion were met more often than those for the A1- criterion . Both groups reported an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury of oneself more often than of others. There was no group difference in reported feelings of helplessness and intense fear of horror. The PTSD prevalence for the total sample was 24.3%, of which 23.1% of AN patients and 25.5% of BN patients met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD. The majority of patients with PTSD reported the first traumatic event before the onset of ED = 17.38, p = .001). Similar results were found in both groups regarding the onset of ED after the first traumatic event = 11.80, p .001 and BN: 61.5%, 2 = 5.57, p = .018). In order to examine the effect of multiple traumatizations on the symptomatology, participants were split into 5 groups according to the number of experienced PTEs ranging from 1 to 5 and more. It was found that all aspects of the trauma-related symptoms increase with the number of experienced PTEs .

The Role Of Sense Of Coherence And Social Support

Whereas the PTSD symptomatology increases with the number of PTEs, SOC correlated negatively with the number of PTEs. The more traumatic events a patient experienced, the lower their SOC . Also for social support and number of PTE a negative correlation was observed, though it was small and not significant . We divided the sample into three groups according to their level of traumatization: no trauma , trauma without PTSD and PTSD . illustrates that in our sample SOC and social support decrease with the level of traumatization. The differences of the mean scores among groups were found to be significant for SOC =12.36, p.001) and social support =3.49, p = .03).

Social Support , Sense of Coherence , Ineffectiveness and grade of traumatization in ED-patients

Additionally, the EDI-2 Ineffectiveness sub-scale was included within this analysis. This sub-scale stands for self-esteem and self-efficacy as well as feelings of control over ones own life which are also personal resources and therefore able to improve ones well-being and treatment outcome. Results show an increase of ineffectiveness with the level of traumatization.

Looking For Eating Disorder And Trauma Therapy

If you have struggled with disordered eating and traumatic experiences, you need a treatment program that can address both. Seeds of Hope takes a holistic approach. Our team includes nutritionists, dietitians, psychiatrists, and therapists trained in a variety of techniques. We help our clients discover a sense of wholeness and healing.

Our residential treatment center remains open with precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We are also offering all of our outpatient programs for adults and teens through teletherapy. Connect with our treatment team on a safe, secure video conferencing platform.

Take the first step toward recovery today. Contact Seeds of Hope at to get started.


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Not All Trauma Comes From A Single Event

Many images come to mind when thinking about trauma: childhood neglect, domestic abuse, car accidents, incidents while in military service. But trauma can result from more than these specific events.

Bullying, childhood neglect, poverty and food scarcity, job loss, hate crimes, and attachment issues are all considered traumatic. These are all less abrupt, but more prolonged, instances of trauma that build up over time.

Binge Eating Can Be Coping Mechanism For Trauma

A Trauma Therapist in Nashville Can Help Address Eating ...

When trauma underlies a patients binge eating disorder, recovery cannot begin until the binge eating stops and long-term remission cannot occur until the trauma is addressed and alternate coping mechanisms are developed.

The underlying trauma may not be from an incredibly dramatic event such as witnessing a death, suffering a sexual assault, experiencing a serious car accident or being deployed in combat. It could be having a family pet die, losing a job, being forgotten at school or going through a divorce or difficult breakup. All can have the same effects: an increase in anxiety and frustration and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress disorder with its associated symptoms of nightmares, dissociation and avoidance.

Eating disorders, particularly binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa and the restrictive form of anorexia nervosa, all serve to alter mood and distract the person with the disorder from their trauma. The planning involved in hiding the purchase and consumption of vast quantities of food, creating excuses for missed meals, disguising purging, if that is a component, and avoiding social outings create a preoccupation that suppresses other thoughts and memories while providing a sense of control shattered by the traumatic event.

Lifelong recovery depends on working through each of step at the start of treatment and mastering them in the years that follow.

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Ptsd And Eating Disorder Behaviors

PTSD and eating disorders are absolutely related to one another and are often seen to be co-occurring. At least 52% of those with an eating disorder diagnosis have a history of trauma . Eating disorders are often developed as maladaptive coping skills. Additionally, risk factors for eating disorder development are often PTSD symptoms such as having difficulty regulating emotions, negative self-view, feelings of shame, and negative emotion-states.

Bulimia Nervosa And Trauma

Bulimia nervosa has a lifetime prevalence around .4%, making it somewhat rarer than anorexia or binge eating disorder, but its still a dangerous disorder by itself. While its less firmly rooted in trauma than binge eating disorder or anorexia, there is still a strong link between trauma-induced PTSD and bulimia.

Bulimia nervosa patients often do not exhibit the same restrictive behavior or physical symptoms that an anorexia nervosa patient might. Their physical presentations are less obvious, and so they require more observation and inference, particularly in suspected trauma cases. Traditionally, struggles with both bulimia and anorexia nervosa were thought to have better outcomes if parents and peers were excluded from treatment but advances in research and sub-clinical treatment have proven that to be incorrect.

Particularly in trauma and abuse situations where a new, stronger social network is present and the abuse or neglectful element has been removed, there is a strong association with familial involvement and recovery. As with anorexia nervosa , its critical to be open to listening, to engage with therapy and to avoid judgment at all costs.

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S For Treating Trauma

The first step is to determine if there might be an eating disorder and what weve established is that a non-judgmental approach of openness is the most important thing. If you suspect that your loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, taking them aside into a comfortable setting, alone and asking them some of these questions is a good way to gauge if theres a problem:

  • Is there anything going on right now that youd like to talk about?
  • Is there anything I can do to help you? Has anything changed recently you need help with?
  • Do you feel like there are things in your life that are overwhelming you?

This is not an exhaustive list, of course, the idea is to be open and willing to listen to them about whatever is causing distress. If you establish there is a condition, then getting them into a treatment center is the next step.

The intake at the facility they are working with will determine the best course of action to treat the ED. In most cases, the first step is to remove trauma. This is something that has likely already occurred by the time theyre in treatment. In the majority of trauma-induced mental health cases, if the family is getting the patient help, they have already resolved or removed the traumatic element .

The Relationship Between Eating Disorders Addiction And Trauma

Trauma and Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders are a mental illness that affects an individuals ability to have a healthy relationship with food and their bodies. Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders are prevalent psychiatric diseases that can be life threatening. In fact, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. About 20% of individuals who struggle with these disorders die from medical complications or by suicide .

Prevention and early intervention are critical with these disorders however, even those who have struggled for decades are able to recover with the help of trained professionals. Effective treatment can be conducted in an outpatient setting, in an inpatient or residential setting with the level of care needed by the patient based on the active symptomology, severity, and duration of the disorder.

Anorexia Nervosa is categorized by an intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, denial of the severity of the illness, and a weight that is lower than expected for the individual. Persons suffering from Bulimia Nervosa engage in recurrent binge eating followed by self-induced vomiting, laxative abuse, excessive exercise, and/or fasting. This disorder also has an extreme focus on weight and shape, but unlike individuals who struggle with Anorexia, those who have Bulimia will often be of average, or even higher weight.

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The Link Between Trauma And Binge Eating

Itâs normal for past experiences to affect the way you act or feel. What you’ve done, seen, or lived through can even impact your eating habits — in both good and bad ways. For example, you might happily host a weekly Sunday dinner because thatâs what your mom did. Or, you might often overeat because you grew up watching other family members do so.

Sometimes, a very bad past event causes a person to get an eating disorder, like binge eating. For years, scientists have been reporting a link between bingeing and post-traumatic stress disorder , which can happen after youâve seen or gone through a violent or life-threatening event. Examples are:

  • Physical or sexual abuse or assault
  • Life-threatening accident
  • Violent or accidental death of a loved one
  • Terrorism or war
  • Seeing a serious crime such as a murder or rape

About 1 in 4 people who binge eat have PTSD.

“People with PTSD have such a hard time focusing on the present and future because they are preoccupied with traumatic memories or trying to avoid traumatic reminders,” says Rachel Yehuda, PhD. Sheâs the director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “Sometimes that means they don’t plan well for future meals, and , they may get very hungry and overeat or overeat compulsively.”

Identifying Trauma In People With Eating Disorders

It can be difficult to see the link between a persons current disordered eating and their past traumatic experiences. This is especially true when they suffer from complex post-traumatic stress disorder . Unlike regular PTSD, C-PTSD is not caused by a single traumatic event, but rather a series of such events for an extended period of time for example, childhood abuse. People with C-PTSD may not be aware of their condition because this disorder often involves suppressing memories of childhood.

An individual may seek treatment for eating disorder symptoms and then discover the link to past trauma in their therapy sessions. Once identified, the trauma needs to be addressed alongside the eating disorder behaviors. Otherwise, the individual will not be able to fully recover because the root cause will remain unresolved. It is important for clinicians to screen for other mental health disorders when treating eating disorders.

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Understanding Trauma And Binge Eating

Trauma is an umbrella term that encompasses a vast array of experiences and feelings. Broadly speaking, trauma is an experience that is disturbing to such a degree that it interferes with our ability to cope. Trauma can cause feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame and panic. It can even cause some individuals to dissociate as a means to self-protect.

Connection Between Eating Disorders And Trauma

The Influence of Abuse and Trauma on Eating Disorders ...

There are many misconceptions about disordered eating, one of which is that eating disorders are simply a result of the pressures of an aggressive dieting culture. And while being surrounded by images of the thin ideal can certainly play a role in the development of an eating disorder, sometimes disordered eating can be a coping tool that a person may use to try to fill the void left by overwhelmingly painful or frightening experiences.

A wealth of research shows a link between trauma and eating disorders. According to Carolyn Coker Ross, M.D., MPH, rates of eating disorders are generally higher among people who have suffered a trauma, with one-third of women who have bulimia nervosa and 20% who have binge-eating disorder also meeting the diagnostic criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder .

A 2018 study found that university students who had experienced a traumatic event turned to binge eating, bingeing and purging, and other disordered eating behaviors to help them try to avoid thinking about the distressing memories associated with those events.

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Ptsd Symptomatology And Ed

To analyze the relation between ED and PTSD symptomatology, the AN and BN samples were each divided into three groups depending on their ETI score reflecting the severity of their PTSD symptomatology: not clinical , discrete , clinically apparent . These groups were compared with a control group mentioned in the EDI-2 Manual which consisted of 186 healthy females. This sample had a mean age of 28 years and their average BMI was 22.0 . The mean scores of EDI-2 increased constantly with the level of severity of trauma symptoms in both AN and BN . Furthermore, the mean scores of the lowest symptom level of PTSD or non-clinical symptoms group were highest when compared to the norm group. Comparing the clinical level symptoms group with the non-clinical symptoms group we found significant differences on each EDI-2 scale. Significant differences between the severity levels on almost all scales with predominantly high effect sizes were revealed. These results indicate that patients with higher PTSD symptomatology also suffer from more severe ED symptoms. The highest scores in both groups were in Body Dissatisfaction and Ineffectiveness scales.

Why The Holiday Season May Be Difficult For Trauma Survivors

But researchers were unable to determine whether bullying victimization was preceded by weight gain, or whether the opposite was the case. Of course, both possibilities are conceivable. That is, obese children and adolescents are more likely to be bullied, and those who are bullied may overeat as a way to cope with the trauma.

Hicks White and colleagues conclude their article by warning clinicians that in the case of patients who have experienced trauma, the use of usual treatments can have a harmful effect therefore, providers should instead incorporate interventions that promote safety and stabilization and specifically address trauma.

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Trauma And Binge Eating: A Path To Healing

Eating disorders have an established link to trauma. Studies have shown time and again that trauma makes us more like to develop an eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. But binge eating disorder is often left out of this discussion. And the truth is that the connection between trauma and binge eating disorder is strong, even compared to other eating disorders. So, whats the reason for this link? And how can treatment help overcome both trauma and binge eating?

Trauma Is Relatively More Common In Bulimic Eating Disorders

Webinar: Connecting Eating Disorders & Trauma – An Introduction

Research shows higher trauma rates among women who struggle with eating disorders that include bingeing and purging than eating disorders that do not.

Research has shown that women who struggle with bulimia nervosa report higher rates of childhood sexual abuse than women who do not have bulimia nervosa.

It has also been shown that people who have experienced childhood sexual abuse report higher rates of bulimic symptoms than those who do not have that experience.

Women who have experienced both childhood sexual abuse and adult rape have extremely high levels of eating disorder symptoms.

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What Are The Implications Of Treatment For Eating Disorders

Clinicians and programs that treat eating disorders should be alert for signs of PTSD or complex posttraumatic stress . Similarly, clinicians treating people with PTSD should be alert for potential comorbid eating issues. The effects of treatment can be bidirectional. Treatment for PTSD and C-PTSD may improve outcomes for eating disorders treatment for eating disorders may have beneficial effects on PTSD symptoms.

The Connection Between Trauma And Eating Disorders

Maybe youve witnessed it. Or read about it. Or worst of all, lived it: the double jeopardy of trauma. People who have been victims of trauma also often feel shame, says psychologist Gia Marson. The trauma happens, and then they feel ashamed that something bad happened to them, so theres self-inflicted punishment for the trauma. It can be a very deep kind of pain and suffering.

In her practice, Marson helps patients recover from eating disorders. Its not uncommon, Marson says, for her patients, especially those with binge eating disorder, to have experienced trauma. Treatment is deeply individual, but understanding and addressing the trauma are critical pieces of the eating disorder recovery.

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Cant Get Rid Of The Tension

It is thought that humans produce similar energy in traumatic situations, but unlike their animal counterparts in the wild, never rid themselves of this tension.

Whether an individual is traumatized once, or repeatedly, that survival energy is rarely discharged, rarely neutralized, and therefore, remains trapped inside the body. SE suggests that trauma is a physiological, not psychological condition therefore, the body must be included in therapy.

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