How Trauma Can Contribute To Eating Disorder Development

It is important to note that you cannot assume a female who suffers from PTSD or trauma has had a history of sexual or physical abuse, however those who have experienced such harrowing events are at an increased risk at developing disordered eating behaviors.

NEDA states that bulimia, in particular, has been connected to trauma as a means of self-protection. Findings suggest that the cycle of binging and purging seem to reduce awareness of thoughts and emotions and are a means of escaping the feelings that often accompany traumatic experiences such as:

  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • The need to cleanse oneself of the experience and refocus
  • Stress
  • The need for control and predictability
  • The need for personal space

When an individual develops an unhealthy relationship with food related to PTSD, their eating disorder becomes a means of coping with painful or uncomfortable feelings that emerge from the traumatic event and threaten their wellbeing. The eating disorder may develop as a way of self-defense for the victim creating an escape mechanism from the emotions associated with the traumatic experience.

Females who suffer from eating disorders unconsciously take on the role of the abused and the abuser. She becomes the culprit of self-abuse towards her body through behaviors such as:

  • Purging
  • Laxative abuse
  • Binge eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  • Starvation
  • Abuse of the body through over-exercise

From a psychological perspective, these behaviors allow her to “control” the emotions that arise from the trauma of past experiences or events. The eating disorder also serves the additional role of allowing her to disassociate and distract herself from the pain of these emotional wounds without having to deal directly with the event itself.

Addressing the Trauma

Individuals who have experienced trauma will find it difficult to fully recover from an eating disorder unless they address the core issue—the traumatic event. Using a holistic, integrative approach to eating disorder treatment with a focus on trauma resolution, it is possible to heal.

The Meadows Ranch understands the relationship between trauma and eating disorders. We help patients confront their issues, give them the tools and skills to overcome their disorder and enter recovery. We do this through an individualized treatment plan that utilizes Somatic Experiencing ® (SE), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as well as numerous experiential therapies such as equine therapy and our challenge course. All of these treatment approaches are designed to empower the patient to make healthy choices for long-lasting recovery.

We Can Help

The Meadows Ranch has been treating eating disorders for over 20 years. Our treatment approach is designed to uncover and understand the “whys” of an eating disorder with an underlying focus on trauma resolution. The goal of our program is to disempower the eating disorder by uncovering the complex psychological factors contributing to the patient’s unhealthy relationship with food.

For additional information about the treatment of eating disorders, please call to speak to a Counselor at 866-390-5100 or complete a form, and we will contact you with the information you need.