a person sits sadly at a table recognizing the link between PTSD and eating disorders

Link Between Eating Disorders and PTSD

A loss of control and power, panic, and disorders are defining emotions of trauma. Those emotions come flooding back when a victim experiences post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Through therapy, survivors try to regain that sense of safety and control. But these PTSD fears are the very emotions that may be causing victims to self-treat or self-medicate by controlling their diet to the point that it is harmful to their health. A team of researchers led by Rachel Yehuda, Ph.D., professor at Mount Sinai Medical Center and mental health patient care center director at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, have found links between PTSD and eating disorders. Dr. Yehuda’s research adds to the statistics from previous studies that have seen a link between the two disorders.

Recovery Ranch knows that the links between PTSD and eating disorders are complex. Our holistic approach to evidence-based trauma therapy addresses the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of these conditions. Our clinicians work to build a deep understanding of the individual’s history, preferences, and needs in order to craft an effective treatment plan. In addition to traditional psychotherapy, we offer alternative holistic therapies to help clients reconnect with themselves to promote long-term healing. Learn more about our PTSD treatment by calling 1.844.876.7680.

Signs of an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are not always a direct result of trauma but can become a coping mechanism for individuals with PTSD. If you notice any of the following signs in yourself or someone you know, it could be a sign of an eating disorder:

  • Preoccupation with food and body weight
  • Restricting food intake, excessive exercise, and/or binging and purging
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Negative self-talk and poor body image
  • Feelings of guilt or shame surrounding food or body weight

If you or someone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, we recommend seeking professional help.

Coping Mechanism to Controlling Mechanism

When life is stressful, people often grasp at anything that can make them feel that they have at least some control over their own lives. Researchers believe that trauma survivors are trying to find this control in managing their diet to extremes. Eating disorders are about controlling your intake and choices of food. During traumatic experiences, survivors often feel a loss of control. While meticulous self-management of food might begin as a mechanism for coping with people with PTSD, it may develop into a serious eating disorder.

From Mental Trauma to Physical Trauma

Dr. Yehuda stresses that PTSD survivors who also develop eating disorders are only adding more stress and damage to their lives. The mental depression and anxiety that PTSD survivors already experience will be compounded by the physical pains of hunger and a lack of proper nutrition. Multiple studies revealed that out of the people who have both PTSD and an eating disorder, PTSD came first.

The April 2012 issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders stated that 66% of men and 40% of women suffering from bulimia nervosa also had PTSD. Lead author Karen S. Mitchell, Ph.D., of the National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston Healthcare System, said that a significant number of people with bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, and binge eating disorder had suffered a traumatic life experience. A July 2011 research article in Psychosomatic Medicine found the same links between anorexia and PTSD. The eating disorders would follow the trauma.

Careful Patient Assessments Might Prevent More Damage

Researchers suggest that doctors screen their PTSD patients carefully for any signs that they may be trying to manage their PTSD by controlling their diet. Likewise, doctors should screen eating disorder patients for any previous traumatic experiences. The process of healing involves the total person. Often, mental health disorders interact and feed upon one another. It is not simply good enough to only treat the most recognizable symptoms. The roots of that disorder need to be found in order to keep it from growing back once again.

Trauma Treatment at Recovery Ranch TN

At Recovery Ranch, we understand the unique relationship between PTSD and eating disorders. Our team of dedicated clinicians is here to help you or your loved one to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will address your trauma and promote long-term healing. We believe in taking a holistic approach to treatment that addresses the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of these complex issues. Contact us at 1.844.876.7680 today to learn more about our treatment programs for PTSD. We are here for you every step of the way.

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