Why Trauma Survivors Have a Higher Risk of Developing Eating Disorders

Willow Place on August 26, 2019
Why Trauma Survivors Have a Higher Risk of Developing Eating Disorders

Living through traumatic experiences can lead to a number of other issues. For instance, experiencing high levels of stress due to trauma which is then self-medicated with self-harming behaviors. And, lead to the development of mental health issues. One way people attempt to self-medicate appease the symptoms of trauma is by eating more or eating less. However, the combination of these behaviors and the symptoms of trauma can lead to the development of eating disorders. Thus, individuals who have dealt with trauma may be at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. In this article, we discuss how trauma survivors are impacted by their traumatic experiences. And, how this trauma relates to other mental health issues like eating disorders. Finally, we’ll explain what trauma survivors who live with eating disorders can do to heal from both mental health issues. And, maintain a better, healthier lifestyle.

The Mental Health Effect of Trauma – PTSD

Experiencing trauma can lead to a mental health disorder known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. This mental health disorder is characterized by symptoms of stress, anxiety, and fear resulting in a traumatic experience or experiences. Furthermore, people diagnosed with PTSD may experience other side effects like nightmares, flashbacks, and uncontrollable (and unwanted) thoughts. Obviously, dealing with trauma can lead to a number of difficult emotions. And, these painful emotions can be debilitating enough for people to try to self-medicate with negative coping methods.

Trauma That Can Lead to PTSD

Why Trauma Survivors Have a Higher Risk of Developing Eating DisordersThere are a number of situations that are traumatic that can lead to the development of PTSD. Some scenarios that are traumatic and can lead to the development of PTSD may include:

  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Losing a loved one/experiencing the death or injury of a loved one
  • Being the victim of abuse (sexual, verbal, childhood, emotional, or physical)
  • Surviving a vehicular accident
  • Experiencing a debilitating injury
  • Being diagnosed with a disease
  • And more

Some Symptoms of PTSD

PTSD isn’t diagnosed until a person experiences the symptoms of this disorder. Basically, they characterize the disease, so they can help in the diagnosis process. Some symptoms of PTSD that can lead to proper diagnosis include:

  • Living with stress and anxiety as a result of experiencing trauma
  • Having triggers (people, places, situations, or things) that stimulate feelings of fear
  • Having issues with sleep scheduling (not sleeping or sleeping too much)
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts
  • Not being able to enjoy past pleasures and hobbies
  • Avoidance behaviors like leaving the home or attending events
  • Not being able to remember specifics or the entirety of the traumatic situation
  • Having intrusive, uncontrollable thoughts
  • Experiencing nightmares
  • Reliving the trauma through flashbacks

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you may be struggling with PTSD. A diagnosis can help you to understand more about this condition. And, provide you with outlets for help. This way, you can manage the symptoms of your PTSD. Furthermore, you can establish healthy ways to live with the trauma you’ve experienced.

When Trauma Survivors Experience Eating Disorders

According to the National Institutes of Health, women who experience trauma and PTSD are at an almost 25% increased risk of developing an eating disorder. So, it’s not all that uncommon for women who’ve experienced a traumatic event or events to develop unhealthy eating behaviors. Essentially, to deal with symptoms of trauma, women may eat more or less than they should in order to cope with emotions. However, in the long run, these unhealthy behaviors can develop into an uncontrollable coping mechanism.

It’s believed that women who’ve experienced trauma may develop eating disorders as a result of increased stress levels. So, in order to attempt to control this stress, they may binge, purge, overeat or display other unhealthy eating behaviors. As a result, they attempt to numb the pain associated with their trauma. But, in the end, experience the comorbidity of two separate mental health issues.

Getting Help for Trauma and Eating Disorders

Those who live with both PTSD and eating disorders can get help. But, it’s best to address both issues at once. This way, one can learn how each disorder affects the other. And, better develop coping skills so that recovery is successful.

The Difference Between Bulimia and Anorexia

Here at The Willow Place for Women, we offer treatment and support for women struggling with both trauma and eating disorders. To learn more about our outpatient programs for women, contact us today.

Request a Call Back

If you or someone you love is battling a severe chemical dependency, an eating disorder, or both, please feel free to contact one of our trained addiction specialists today. All calls are free and completely confidential. While we know that suffering from a severe and life-threatening substance dependency can, at times, seem insurmountable, we sincerely believe that every woman is capable and deserving of the opportunity to recover. Reaching out is the first step – give us a call today, and we will gladly walk you through the process of beginning your beautiful, fulfilling journey of addiction recovery.

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