How the Experience of Trauma Can Increase Your Risk of an Eating Disorder

How the Experience of Trauma Can Increase Your Risk of an Eating Disorder

The experience of trauma can have lasting adverse effects on a person’s ability to function and their entire well-being, including physical, social, and emotional wellness. While many individuals may go on to lead relatively normal lives, even after traumatic experiences, the implications and consequences of unresolved trauma can resurface at unexpected times. The experience of trauma is also associated with severe mental illnesses, including mood disorders, substance abuse, and eating disorders [1].

Connection Between Trauma and Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, such as anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, are complex illnesses, often influenced by a combination of biological and environmental factors. On the surface, an eating disorder may appear to be an issue or problem with food, eating, or body image. In reality, there are many underlying issues that can cause a person to have maladaptive eating behaviors. This may include restrictive eating, extreme and compulsive exercising, engaging in recurring binging and purging episodes, emotional and compulsive eating, and more.

Trauma is a factor that can increase a woman’s susceptibility to developing an eating disorder, either in the short or long term. Because eating disorders are associated with potentially fatal consequences, it is absolutely critical to address unresolved trauma with a therapeutic and professional approach.

Research has found considerable evidence that childhood trauma, especially sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, is a predisposing factor for developing eating disorders in adolescence or adulthood [2, 3]. It is thought that eating disorders and the connected behaviors may arise as a means of coping with the distress and negative affect that often results from trauma. Survivors of trauma may also engage in self-destructive eating behaviors, such as binging and purging, in an attempt to regulate emotional distress or for relief from tension resulting from trauma.

Seeking Help and Treatment

The experience of trauma in any form is devastating, and seeking out appropriate help and professional treatment can promote resolution and healing. The risk of delaying professional interventions can lead to more severe consequences. If you or a loved one has experienced trauma, consider connecting with the compassionate staff at The Meadows Ranch. Specializing in the treatment of underlying issues associated with eating disorder, such as trauma, our individualized treatment can help you find resolution, healing, and peace.

[1]: Rayworth, BB, et al. (2004) Childhood abuse and risk of eating disorders in women. Epidemiology 15, 271-278.
[2]: Rorty M et al (1996) Histories of childhood trauma and complex post-traumatic sequelae in women with eating disorders. Psychiatric Clinics on North America 19, 773-791
[3]: Neumark-Sztainer D, et al (2000) Disordered eating among adolescents: associations with sexual/physical abuse and other familial/psychosocial factors. International Journal of Eating Disorders 28, 249-258

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