The Highlands Eating Disorder Treatment Center Blog

Trauma Resolution and Eating Disorder Recovery

For eating disorder treatment to be effective, it has to address not only the external signs and symptoms, but also the disorder’s underlying causes. In some cases, that means addressing trauma, or even PTSD. While not all individuals who struggle with eating disorders also struggle with trauma, these conditions are commonly linked. Here at Castlewood at The Highlands, many of our residents receive treatment for both of these conditions in conjunction. Trauma also happens to be the focus of December’s #1LifeAtATime campaign, which is why we are devoting a little bit of space today to explain the intersection between trauma and eating disorders—and how trauma resolution can lead to lifelong hope.

The Basics of Trauma

Understand that there are any number of events—or series of events—that can contribute to an eating disorder. This includes any experience in which a person is either physically or emotionally threatened. Not every painful or difficult event leads to ongoing trauma, of course, but some traumatic events can produce lingering effects—physical, social, and emotional ones. Some of the specific incidents that might cause ongoing trauma include rape and sexual abuse, bullying and violence, or even experiences with a natural disaster or a bad auto accident. The actual connection between trauma and eating disorders is multi-faceted, and not always clearly understood. The first thing that should be said is that the connection between trauma and eating disorders is common, and in fact about one in three people who suffer from an eating disorder have also experienced something along the lines of trauma or sexual abuse. There are various signs of trauma to look out for—including:
  • Flashbacks, nightmares, and memories that are inescapable and irrepressible.
  • Withdrawal from relationships/ social isolation.
  • Difficulty bonding with family members and friends.
  • Avoidance of people, places, or experiences that might be connected to the trauma.
  • Co-occurring disorders, such as depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, and eating disorders.
Also be aware that some cases of trauma may meet the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), an anxiety disorder that requires immediate and ongoing clinical care. We can diagnose and treat PTSD here at The Highlands.

Trauma and Eating Disorders

Trauma can lead to eating disorders for a number of reasons. Most succinctly, a person may develop an eating disorder as a way to seek control, or as a way of mitigating the traumatic feelings and memories that continue to arise. The important thing to know is that this situation is never hopeless; treatment can work, and ongoing recovery can be achieved. For this to happen, though, it is critical to receive an accurate diagnosis, and for the treatment to address not only the eating disorder, but also the underlying issue with trauma or with PTSD. Castlewood at The Highlands can provide this sort of treatment, always tailored to match the specific needs of the individual client. Evidence-based nutrition therapy and trauma resolution therapy can be used together to treat the underlying issues. Specific therapeutic methods might include cognitive behavior therapy; exposure and response prevention therapy; eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy; internal family systems therapy; attachment-based-psychotherapy, and cognitive processing therapy. The important implication in all of this, and our main message today, is that nobody has to struggle with trauma or to suppress it with an eating disorder forever. There are treatments that can bring lasting hope and health. We encourage you to learn more today. If you or someone who know has dealt with something traumatic, consider reaching out to us for a diagnosis and appropriate care. Contact us today to learn more about trauma resolution.

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