When working with people at our eating disorder treatment center in California, we explain to them that eating disorders like binge eating, anorexia, and bulimia aren’t simply about disordered eating habits. In fact, in virtually every scenario there is an emotional issue (or issues) that is the root of the condition. In many cases it is trauma. Consequently, many studies have shown a link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders.
Trauma and Disordered Eating
Researchers, counselors, and healthcare providers have found that there are a number of kinds of trauma that increase the likelihood that a person will develop an eating disorder. They include:
- Sexual assault
- Physical abuse
- Child sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Teasing and bullying
- Sexual harassment
Why do trauma and PTSD contribute to the development of eating disorders? The exact link is currently unknown. However, what is known is that trauma disrupts the nervous system in a way that negatively affects a person’s ability to manage their emotions. As a result, they resort to eating disorders, addictions, and other unhealthy behaviors to cope with their feelings. In cases of trauma that is sexual in nature, there is speculation that a person might subconsciously seek to change their appearance by losing or gaining weight in order to decrease the likelihood that they will suffer the same trauma again.
Addressing the Disorder and the Trauma
Both PTSD and eating disorders have high rates of “dissociation” — the desire to distance oneself from disturbing memories and emotions. In eating disorders, this can be seen in actions like purging (symbolically getting rid of something painful) and binging (filling an emotional void created by a traumatic experience).
Not everyone with an eating disorder has suffered trauma or PTSD. However, for those who have, it’s critical that the trauma and its lingering effects be discovered and addressed. Doing so helps ensure that the trauma doesn’t continue to be a long-term source of potential relapse.
A Comprehensive Approach to Recovery
At our eating disorder treatment center in California, we have holistic programs that take into account the entirety of a person’s experience. Our focus isn’t limited to short term success, but instead looks to create long-term stability. To learn more about how we help the people we work with, call us today at 916-784-1120.