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How Childhood Trauma Can Lead to Eating Disorders

How Childhood Trauma Can Lead to Eating Disorders

How Childhood Trauma Can Lead to Eating Disorders 2560 1707 se_admin

Many girls struggle with body image issues as they enter adolescence. They become acutely aware of how they are perceived. And with technology today, they have the internet at their fingertips so that they can constantly compare themselves to their peers and celebrities. This can feel overwhelming for any young girl dealing with body image issues, but for girls who have experienced childhood trauma, the risk of eating disorders is substantially increased.

Trauma and Eating Disorders

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 3.8% percent of girls aged 13-18 will experience an eating disorder. These eating disorders included anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. Contrary to what many people may think, eating disorders are rarely about food. Some young women may be feeling out of control and by restricting their food, they are controlling the one thing they can. For others, the root of the eating disorder may be unresolved trauma.

The National Eating Disorder Association states: “Approximately one-third of women with bulimia, 20% with binge eating disorder and 11.8% with non-bulimic/non-binge eating disorders met criteria for lifetime PTSD. Overall, the most significant finding was that rates of eating disorders were generally higher in people who experienced trauma and PTSD.” The term childhood trauma encompasses a wide range of distressing experiences a teen may have faced through their youth. It can range from dealing with their parents’ divorce to bullying to physical and emotional abuse. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder and eating disorders share some similar characteristics and they both have high rates of dissociation. Eating disorder behaviors may be a way to distance oneself from disturbing thoughts, emotions, or memories associated with PTSD. For others who binge and purge, there may be a desire to numb the negative feelings by binging and then purging, or getting rid of, all those negative emotions. Even though there is no actual removal of the emotion, the physical sensations can fulfill those emotional compulsions. 

Seeking Treatment

The most important factor in recovery for young women with eating disorders is seeking out treatment. Many teens are embarrassed or ashamed of their disorder and their mental health struggle, so it can be a challenge for them to reach out for help. If you notice your daughter is showing the warning signs of an eating disorder, a residential treatment facility can help. Combining research-based therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing with mindfulness practices and an environment designed to support them, can set her on a path toward recovery.

Solstice East Can Help

The Solstice mission is to support adolescents, and their families, in developing excellence in relationships, influence, character, and health throughout their life journeys. Through relationship-based programming, we help students restore and rebuild healthy, trusting relationships with their families, peers, teachers, and staff.

Solstice East students are highly intelligent and highly sensitive. Our teens are creative and capable, but vulnerable to the pressures of their surroundings. They often experience the world differently through misperceptions and are impacted by issues of anxiety, depression, identity, attachment, mood disorders, and learning disabilities. Solstice East is committed to treating each student through a combination of individual, family, equine, and adventure therapies. For more information please call (855) 672-7058.