Our Approach to Trauma-Informed Eating Disorder Treatment

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Food and weight play a central role in eating disorders, but there are often deeper root causes that need to be identified before recovery can begin. Eating disorders are frequently caused by trauma, which is one of the major risk factors.

It can be difficult to realize that the compulsive behaviors you’re struggling with may be related to trauma from the past. Eating Disorder Solutions takes a holistic approach to treatment that addresses both the underlying trauma as well as the eating disorder, which offers the best chance for long-term recovery. If you or someone you love is struggling, please reach out to us for help.

Traumatic experiences can come in many forms, but they are all connected by the fact that they can cause a person to feel like they’ve lost control or fear for their lives. Therefore, we must demonstrate empathy and understanding for many of our clients who have had traumatic experiences. No matter what the circumstances, we treat each traumatic situation with the same level of seriousness and sensitivity that every one of our clients deserves. Offering compassionate, appropriate support to trauma victims can reduce the risk of clients suffering from eating disorders being re-traumatized or triggered.

Our trauma-informed care (TIC) aims to respect, support, and empower our clients, focusing on their safety and mental health and how their trauma has affected their functioning, health, and well-being in order to help them move forward.

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Understanding Trauma and Eating Disorders

Untreated trauma can disrupt your daily life — including your relationship with food and your body. There are several complex conditions here, so what binds them together?

Eating disorders are strongly linked to trauma-related concerns such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The National Comorbidity Survey-Replication Study found that approximately 80% of people who struggled with behaviors such as restricting their food intake or binging and purging also reported exposure to trauma [1].

In a study of more than 100 adult female patients with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, 95% reported experiencing at least one traumatic event. The highest number of traumatic experiences reported by participants was 11, while the average number was four [2].

Eating disorders are more prevalent in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder survivors.

  •  Rates of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in eating disorder samples range between 1-52%. [4]
  • PTSD and eating disorders are related to one another and are often seen to be co-occurring. [5]
    • In Women
      • Anorexia (16.09%)
      • Bulimia (39.81%)
      • Binge Eating (25.74%)
    • In Men
      • Bulimia (66.19%)
      • Binge Eating (24.02%)
In another study, researchers conducted five focus groups and two in-depth interviews with 20 female veterans, including one transgender woman, to better understand trauma exposure and eating disorders [2]. Study participants were chosen based on their trauma exposure and eating disorder histories. Their study identified three themes that connected these conditions:  
  • In the face of troubling or negative emotions, some participants sought comfort in food. In some cases, they overate as a result of feeling enraged about the trauma they suffered. Other times, they used food as a punishment for guilt or shame. Whatever their emotions were, their eating patterns reflected those feelings.
  • Some participants found relief from troubling thoughts and feelings by eating in a certain way. Many participants found that food eased anxiety, helped them cope with anger, and created positive sensations after negative experiences. Others used food as a numbing agent for negative emotions or feelings.
  • For fear of unwanted attention from perpetrators, individuals who suffer interpersonal trauma engage in disordered eating behaviors to gain weight or change their body shape. As the researchers noted, they attempted to gain control by making themselves invisible to those they considered threatening.
Every person has a different background, and it is impossible to compare trauma and eating disorders across individuals since everyone’s experiences are so diverse. However, these studies show the importance of comprehending the root causes of eating disorders – including trauma histories – to help people overcome them.
Trauma Informed Care Eating Disorder Treatment

Our Trauma-Informed Eating Disorder Treatment (TIC)

Without professional treatment, being diagnosed with PTSD and an eating disorder can be highly debilitating. Individuals can cope more effectively with their difficult moments with an individualized treatment plan that reduces the stress and anxiety associated with the traumatic experience.

At Eating Disorder Solutions, we take a comprehensive approach and focus on treating the whole person. Our team of highly trained professionals empathize with each client, developing an individualized recovery plan to help them develop self-soothing strategies, mindfulness strategies, and personalized coping mechanisms through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) to effectively treat eating disorders and trauma.

The goal of trauma-informed care is to improve long-term health outcomes for clients, engage them in their recovery, and help them develop trusting relationships with their providers. At Eating Disorder Solutions, we follow protocols that align with each form of treatment.

In TIC, clinicians follow five core principles to guide their treatment approach:
  • Empowerment: Incorporating affirming, validating, and client-oriented treatment approaches emphasizing the client’s strengths and abilities.
  • Trustworthiness: Promoting a trusting relationship within the therapeutic relationship, setting professional and respectful boundaries, and promoting transparency.
  • Collaboration: Allowing clients to make choices about their eating disorder evaluation and treatment.
  • Choice: Giving clients more control over their treatment modalities, experiences, and plans.
  • Safety: Making clients feel physically and emotionally at ease during treatment.

As part of our treatment, we help clients process the traumatic experiences that have hindered their recovery. Additionally, we help clients learn coping strategies and relapse prevention skills to better prepare them for life’s challenges and stressors. By working through their trauma and understanding why eating disorders started, our clients can come to terms with their past and take charge of their mental health.

Our number one priority is our client’s best interest and recovery. Therefore, we dedicate our top-tier staff to providing the best possible eating disorder treatment and support to each client in the safety net of Eating Disorder Solutions.

With an emphasis on cultivating self-compassion and treating the mind, body, and spirit, our clients will build the resiliency needed to fully recover from their trauma and eating disorder.

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These conditions might seem unmanageable at the moment, but with trauma-informed treatment, it’s possible to manage the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and live the life you deserve. Contact us for more information or speak with a knowledgeable admissions team member at 855-808-4213.

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1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8257777/
2. Tagay, S.; Schlottbohm, E.; Reyes-Rodriguez, M. L.; Repic, N.; and Senf, W. (2014). Eating disorders, trauma, PTSD, and psychosocial resources. Eating Disorders, 22(1), 33–49. https://doi.org/10.1080/10640266.2014.857517.
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3132652/
4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3966425/
5. Breland, J. Y.; Donalson, R.; Dinh, J. V.; and Maguen, S. (2018). Trauma exposure and disordered eating: A qualitative study. Women & Health, 58(2), 160–174. https://doi.org/10.1080/03630242.2017.1282398.