Eating Disorder Therapy Approaches at The Highlands

Trauma and Eating Disorders

Trauma and eating disorders can be closely related, but clients and families often do not recognize the connection between eating disordered behaviors and trauma-related symptoms.  Eating disorder symptoms, such as bingeing and purging, may be the way that someone copes with the trauma, and the various emotions that may be present. Trauma can something in the past, either one specific event or an ongoing situation, or something that is currently present. Clients may think that they have put a past-traumatic event behind them, not realizing how the pain continues to resurface in various suppressive behaviors. Skilled therapists and dietitians at The Highlands provide specialized professional treatment for those with eating disorders and trauma issues. Each client is evaluated carefully, and prescribed an individualized treatment plan. Above all, we are caring, compassionate, and understanding of the very difficult nature of coming to terms with trauma.

Understanding Trauma and Eating Disorders

Many kinds of trauma can contribute to an eating disorder. According to SAMSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), trauma can result from one event, a series of events, or a set of experiences that is experienced by a person as being physically or emotionally harmful or threatening, and that has a lasting effect (one or more) on that individual’s wellbeing and functioning in these areas:
  • Physical
  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
Trauma and eating disorders are complex and sometimes difficult to understand issues with many layers. It is easy to see how some traumatic injuries, such as sexual abuse, can have a traumatic effect in more than one of these areas. Research has shown that one in three people with an eating disorder have experienced some type of trauma or sexual abuse. Common trauma related issues frequently seen in eating disorders are:
  • Painful or negative social interactions
  • Difficulty bonding with family or other people
  • Physical abuse and domestic violence
  • Witnessing a violent event
  • Physical neglect
  • Trauma related to war or natural disasters
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that deeply affects normal daily functioning without professional treatment. For others, trauma reenactment may be present. This means that a trauma survivor may reflect underlying pain and emotions not only via eating disordered behaviorss, but also through flashbacks, chronic pain and illnesses, difficulty with social boundaries, and various self-destructive behaviors.

Eating Disorders and Trauma Treatment Approaches at The Highlands

At The Highlands, we have taken great care to provide and environment that is comfortable, safe, accepting, and non-judgmental. Exploring trauma related experiences and emotions can be extremely difficult, and we provide the professional expertise and empathy that in necessary for recovery. Successful eating disorders and trauma treatment requires multiple types of therapy, since not all clients respond in exactly the same manner. Evidence based nutrition therapy and trauma therapy are provided simultaneously. Trauma-specific therapy approaches at The Highlands may include:
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
  • Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy (used for both trauma and eating fears)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Internal Family Systems Therapy
  • Attachment-based psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)
By incorporating a trauma-resolution into the customized treatment plan, recovery is optimized.  Individuals who have eating disorders and trauma-related symptoms must address both issues for full recovery to take place for each. The Highlands skilled and experienced trauma and eating disorders treatment team provide each client with the highest possible level of individualized treatment.