Trauma is often a catalyst that drives eating disorder behaviors, including binge eating. Women who experience trauma are at a higher risk for developing eating disorders like binge eating disorder. So, it’s important to address trauma when getting help for binge eating disorder. This way, individuals living with the effects of both binge eating and trauma can learn to heal and implement healthy eating behaviors into their lives.
Living with the Effects of Trauma
Some people may not even know they’ve experienced trauma in their own lives until they reach out for help with binge eating disorder. Trauma is an experience or collection of experiences that bring about negative symptoms and feelings. These negative symptoms and feelings can lead to attempting to self-regulate emotions with unhealthy behaviors. One of these behaviors is often binge eating, which can eventually become a habitual behavior as a means to cope with the symptoms of trauma.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
When a person experiences trauma, the symptoms that result can last a lifetime. Traumatic experiences are so damaging that they can lead to the development of PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a mental health illness. Typically, war veterans are diagnosed with PTSD as a result of experiencing combat. But, PTSD can be the result of trauma of all kinds including trauma resulting from:
- childhood, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse
- witnessing or being the victim of a crime
- experiencing a natural disaster
- losing a loved one(s)
- surviving an illness or tragic event (for example, a vehicular accident)
- experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth
Are You Experiencing Symptoms of PTSD?
Individuals diagnosed with PTSD have experienced trauma, but not everyone who experiences trauma will be diagnosed with PTSD. Characteristics of a PTSD diagnosis include specific symptoms an individual will experience. Some of the characterizing symptoms of PTSD include:
- having flashbacks and recurring nightmares of traumatic events
- hyperarousal and heightened irritability
- avoidance of triggering places, people, or situations
- insomnia or oversleeping
- being easily frightened or startled
What is Binge Eating Disorder?
Binge eating disorder, or BED, is an eating disorder that’s a diagnosable mental health illness. It’s characterized by effects of binge eating or eating large quantities of food in short amounts of time. These disordered eating patterns are often developed as a result of attempting to self-regulate emotions of guilt, shame, remorse, depression, or anxiety.
Often, people conduct bingeing behaviors in private so they remain a secret to loved ones, so it can be challenging to identify. Furthermore, individuals living with BED may attempt to nullify binge eating by performing purging techniques in order to prevent the symptoms of binging. Also, when people with BED aren’t binging, they may try to “make up” for their binging behaviors with restrictive eating behaviors. These behaviors can include dieting, intense exercise, and avoiding eating certain foods altogether.
Experiencing Symptoms of PTSD and BED Simultaneously
It’s not uncommon that individuals living with symptoms of PTSD may binge eat in an attempt to control or dull the emotions that trauma can bring. So, for these individuals, only treating PTSD or BED doesn’t address all the mental health issues that associate with experienced symptoms. That’s why it’s essential for people living with both PTSD and BED to get the help that addresses both issues.
Fortunately, a treatment that includes both behavioral and supportive therapies can help. It aids individuals in learning the skills they need to deal with both symptoms of trauma and binge eating. Behavioral therapy allows individuals to learn how to identify why they may binge eat as it associates with trauma. And, develop helpful coping skills to manage the symptoms of trauma in their own lives so that disordered eating behaviors no longer have to be utilized. Supportive therapies allow individuals who have experienced trauma to identify emotions relating to trauma. And, address these emotions so they can be accepted and healing can commence.
Getting Help for the Effects of Binge Eating Disorder and Trauma
Willow Place for Women is a women’s-only outpatient treatment disorder facility located in Asheville, North Carolina. Here, we help women who are living with both trauma and eating disorders develop the skills, supportive community, and positive lifestyles necessary to manage symptoms of their mental health issues.
Find out more about the supportive therapies and behavioral therapies available at our outpatient facility. And, contact us to talk to us about how we can help you or a loved one living with trauma and/or eating disorders today.