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Trauma and Eating Disorders: Getting to the Root of the Problem

Most individuals who struggle with a mental health issue have suffered from some type of trauma. Traumatic events early on in life can shape how we relate to ourselves, others, and the world around us. As a result of not overcoming trauma, victims can develop aversions, anxiety disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. One of the primary issues young people struggle with are various types of eating disorders. An unhealthy relationship with food is often directly correlated to preexisting trauma, and the only way to beat it is to heal the pain caused by the traumatic event.


The Stats and Facts on Eating Disorders and Trauma


It isn’t just anecdotal evidence that allows us to link eating disorders with preexisting trauma. According to one study, up to 50% of eating disordered individuals suffer from some type of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Because eating disorders typically start in the teenage years and end in the mid-twenties, the stressful event usually occurred early on in childhood. A dysfunctional home environment, a parents’ divorce, sexual abuse, accidents, bullying, physical abuse, and psychological abuse are all potential causes of eating disorders.


Therapists believe individuals use eating disorders as a way to handle stress created by the traumatic event. Trauma can make a child feel out of control, while an eating disorder can provide a false sense of control for the victim. Unfortunately, many eating disorder treatment facilities do not incorporate trauma therapy as part of their plan. As a result, many victims fall back into old habits once they are on their own again. These individuals are often referred to as PTSD-EDS, or people who meet the criteria for both an eating disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.


Another study showed that when clients complete a treatment program that combines trauma and eating disorder recovery, they have a higher rate of recovery. Even those who do not complete the entire program will still have a higher chance of success. This shows the importance of continuing and strengthening PTSD-ED care in the medical community.


CPT and CBT: Potential Solutions


The two types of common trauma therapies for ED sufferers include Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CPT and CBT are very similar to one another, and CPT is actually a subset of CBT. The only difference is that CPT focuses more on trauma in particular, and how to evaluate and change one’s response to it over time. By slowly addressing our thinking and changing it, we can change the way we feel about our bodies and food.


Believing lies is a big reason so many suffer from eating disorders. We think that if we can get thinner, look better, or exercise more, we will feel better. We will gain more control over our lives, and the trauma we suffer from. Nothing can be further from the true. Once we relinquish control, we gain control. When we change how we think about food and start seeing it as a form of nourishment, food loses its power over us. A qualified therapist who specializes in CBT and CPT can help you recover from trauma-related EDS. He or she will also show you a new way of thinking so you can be more at peace in your body and gain control over your life.


Do you suffer from an eating disorder and/or post-traumatic stress disorder? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.

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