Post Traumatic Stress Disorder And Eating Disorders

Artist, Kaia Arthur via etsy.com
Artist, Kaia Arthur via etsy.com

Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD and eating disorders often co-occur, particularly as
individuals suffering from an eating disorder usually report a history of
trauma.  Research suggests that
engagement in eating disorder behaviors may be a method of coping with the
discomforting emotions and experiences correlated with PTSD.  Thus, the chances are great that an
individual who has suffered traumatic events will develop an eating disorder as
a means of controlling or coping with their emotions.

 

Studies

Studies have shown significant links
between patients who suffered abuse and the later development of an eating
disorder.

  • 74% of 293 women attending residential eating disorder
    treatment indicated that they had experienced a significant trauma
  • 52% reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of current
    PTSD based on their responses on a PTSD symptom scale

 

Treatment

Since eating disorders may develop as a method of dealing
with an overwhelming tragedy or trauma, it is essential that both disorders be
addressed simultaneously in treatment to resolve the underlying issues.  Effective treatments for both conditions
would ideally occur under the care of experienced professionals in an
accredited center for eating disorders, and address the medical, nutritional,
and therapeutic processes of care for these illnesses.

One of the primary purposes of eating disorder behavior is to
avoid and cope with painful, disquieting or uncomfortable feelings or affect.
The eating disorder serves both to distance oneself from these feelings or
states as well as to relieve them. From an abuse perspective, the eating
disorder is a clever  means to accomplish
both distance and numbing as well as a means to relive the painful past events
through a recreation of it through the eating disorder behaviors.

 

Note

What is important to keep in mind is that assumptions cannot
be made about the development of an eating disorder; triggers are unique to the
individual sufferer. Clearly, for all eating disorder sufferers there are unique
causes, of one kind or another, which has lead to the development of their
specific behavior. The impact of relationships and parenting in the development
of self-concept and self-esteem, family dynamics, biological depression and
anxiety, cultural and societal pressures about weight and body image
particularly for women, physical and/or sexual abuse, are all contributors in
the development of eating disorders. All are significant. Which apply is unique
to the individual.

 

Sources

Brewerton, T. “The
Links Between PTSD and Eating Disorders.” 2008. Psychiatric Times.

 

Has PTSD played a role in your eating disorder?
Please share your thoughts below, as they may help someone else.

 

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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