Is trauma driving some eating disorders?

Rear view of the woman exercising from the sea.

Eating disorders can be difficult to understand and challenge. Since they are extremely dangerous to a person's health, eating disorders are associated with high mortality rates. Among all eating disorders, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate.

He is well established that traumas and eating disorders are highly correlated. A national study with a sample of 3,006 women found that people with bulimia nervosa:

  • 26.6% had experienced "violent rape" in their lives (rape is often defined as rape involving physical coercion). This figure was double the rate for the general population of women.
  • 26.8% reported an aggravating attack.
  • 36.9% had a history of post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

Research shows that most people with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and itching (BED) have a history of interpersonal wounding. This pattern applies to both men and women. Interpersonal trauma can occur in parent-child or close partner relationships. Domestic violence, emotional abuse, sexual abuse and neglect often cause long-term repercussions.

Possible causes for the relationship between trauma and eating disorders

The underlying relationship between PTSD and eating disorders can cause difficulty in regulating unpleasant emotions. Accumulation and cleaning can act as a way to manage feelings and give the person a sense of control. However, more research is needed to investigate possible causes of causation between injuries and eating disorders.

What are the consequences of treatment for eating disorders?

Clinical doctors and programs experiencing eating disorders should be alert to PTSD or complicated post traumatic stress (C-PTSD). Likewise, clinicians who treat people with PTSD should be alert to possible combinations of eating problems. The effects of the treatment can be two-way. Treatment for PTSD and C-PTSD can improve the effects on eating disorders. treatment for eating disorders may have beneficial effects on the symptoms of PTSD.

Treatment for trauma and eating disorders

If you have an eating disorder, it is important to seek immediate treatment. Your condition can have a serious impact on your physical health and can endanger your life. If you have a history of trauma or if you feel that you have difficulty managing your feelings, you might consider finding a therapist who has experience in the treatment of wounds and eating disorders. Treating the underlying trauma can be an important part of a sustainable, long-term recovery.

When you are being treated for PTSD or C-PTSD, if you have an eating disorder, make sure your therapist is aware of the disturbed food. If you have experienced trauma and care for an eating disorder, your therapist should know your trauma history.

Simultaneous treatment for traumatic and eating disorders

Simultaneous treatment for eating disorders and trauma may increase the effectiveness of the treatment. If treatment is only requested for the eating disorder, the underlying trauma will not be treated and treatment will not be completed.

Studies have also shown that people with eating disorders often have anxiety sensitivity. People with anorexia nervosa and / or bulimia nervosa are likely to experience high levels of anxiety sensitivity. In other words, they are afraid of sensations and behaviors associated with anxiety. For example, they may be afraid of a sense of control loss and excessive inhibition. These fears can make it difficult for them to feel secure and relaxed.

Overlap between eating disorders and PTSD is important. If you are experiencing an injury and a eating disorder, you will probably benefit from an up-to-date, integrated approach. If you have an eating disorder, your best chance of recovery lies in treating the underlying trauma at the same time as the eating disorder.

bibliographical references:

  1. Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A.J., Wales, J., & Nielsen, S. (2011). Mortality rates in patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders. A meta-analysis of 36 studies. General Psychiatry Archives, 68(7), 724-731. Retrieved from
  2. Brewerton, T. D. (2008, May 2). The links between PTSD and eating disorders. Psychiatric times, 25(6), 1-7. Retrieved from
  3. Dansky, B.S., Brewerton, T.D., Kilpatrick, D.G., & O. Neil, P.M. (1997). The National Women's Study: Victim Relationship and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Bulimia Nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 21(3), 213-228. Retrieved from;2-N
  4. Hall, K. S., Hoerster, K. D., & Yancy Jr., W. S. (2015). Post traumatic stress disorder, physical activity and eating behavior. Epidemiological reviews, 37(1), 103-115. Retrieved from
  5. Mason, S. M., Frazier, P. A., Austin, S. B., Harlow, B. L., Jackson, B., Raymond, N. C., & Rich-Edwards, J. W. (2017). Symptoms of trauma after trauma and problematic overeating behaviors in young men and women. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 51(6), 822-832. Retrieved from
  6. Mitchell, K. S., Mazzeo, S. E., Schlesinger, M. R., Brewerton, T. D., & Smith, B. N. (2012). Combination of partial and sub-imperial PTSD between men and women with eating disorders in the study of the National Composting and Reproduction Department. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 45(3), 307-315. Retrieved from

© Copyright 2018 All rights reserved. Publishing permission is granted by Fabiana Franco, PhD, a therapist in New York, New York

The previous article was written only by the author defined above. Any views and opinions are not necessarily expressed by Questions or concerns about the previous article may be directed to the author or published as a comment below.