The Connection between Trauma and Eating Disorders

Research has uncovered multiple factors that may influence the development of eating disorders in adolescents, including both biological, psychological, and environmental components. The combination of these influencing factors can increase a child’s susceptibility to developing an eating disorder. While it is not necessarily possible to determine a child’s risk factor, there are warning signs that may indicate the susceptibility of forming an eating disorder.

For example, the experience of trauma or traumatic events, including physical, emotional, psychological, and/or sexual, can increase an adolescent’s risk of developing an eating disorder. The high levels of stress and anxiety that trauma often produces can lead to destructive methods of coping, including maladaptive eating behaviors associated with eating disorders.

Studies have found that emotional abuse, physical neglect, and sexual abuse were found to be significant predictors of eating psychopathology [1]. Research has also found that women who reported both childhood physical and sexual abuse were three times as likely to develop eating disorder symptoms as those who reported no abuse [2]. With the experience of childhood trauma associated with a range of serious long-term psychiatric complications, including eating disorders, it is important to recognize the necessity to address these concerns effectively.

 

Effective Treatment Options

Adolescents with eating disorders who have been impacted by trauma will require specialized and comprehensive care to find healing and recovery. Given the nature of eating disorders and the influence of unresolved trauma, it is necessary to find treatment options that can help address both simultaneously. In healing from trauma, many adolescents find that they are also able to recover from their eating disorder, as destructive eating behaviors are no longer necessary to cope with trauma stressors.

Thankfully, there are many treatment options available to help your adolescent facilitate healing from the inside out and address any unresolved trauma in a therapeutic and healing manner. The level of care for treatment that may be best for your child will depend on a number of factors. Having a complete assessment done by an eating disorder professional can help determine what level of care is best suited for meeting your loved one’s individual needs, including medical, nutritional, and psychological concerns. This may include critical care/inpatient, residential treatment, and transitional care for eating disorders impacted by unresolved trauma.

Establishing medical stability is a priority of eating disorder treatment, including nutritional rehabilitation and psychiatric safety. Once this has occurred, the process of uncovering complex psychological factors contributing to an unhealthy relationship with food can begin. Various forms of therapy can be helpful for trauma resolution, rebuilding self-esteem, and gaining confidence over the eating disorder.

Choosing the Right Treatment Center

At The Meadows Ranch, we understand the unique challenges that young girls aged 8-17 face when impacted by eating disorders and trauma. Our treatment program is specifically equipped to effectively address the complex issues stemming from these conditions and empower recovery through our innovative treatment approaches.

Through the devastation and confusion that you and your loved one have experienced, we want you to know that you are not alone. We will work with your adolescent in a nurturing and safe environment to help them regain their health, find healing from trauma, and eliminate eating disorder behaviors. Connecting with the specialized care at The Meadows Ranch can make all the difference in recovery from eating disorders impacted by trauma. Connect with us today and learn more about how we can help you and your family find whole-person healing and restoration. Give us a call at 866-239-7381.

References:

[1]: Seongsook Kong, et al. (2009) Childhood trauma as a predictor of eating psychopathology and its mediating variables in patients with eating disorders. Journal of Clinical Nursing 18, 1897-1907

[2]: Rayworth, BB, et al. (2004) Childhood abuse and risk of eating disorders in women. Epidemiology 15, 271-278.