The Connection between Sexual Abuse History and Bulimia

The Connection between Sexual Abuse History and BulimiaSexual abuse is one of the most dominant risk factors in the development of eating disorders. Sexual abuse is a traumatic experience that leaves many damaging psychological consequences, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and self-isolation. When individuals are unable to address their sexual abuse history or cope with the physical and emotion pain that it has caused, it is common to act out with behaviors that offer a distraction or an escape. While eating disorders can preoccupy a victim of sexual abuse from feeling emotional distress, they can also provide an individual with a sense of control that was lacking when he or she was sexually victimized. Sexual abuse and trauma are high-risk factors for the development of all eating disorders, but research has shown a distinct connection between sexual abuse history and bulimia.

Why Is Sexual Abuse a High-Risk Factor for Bulimia?

Bulimia, along with other eating disorders, is a way to dissociate from painful memories and experiences, such as sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse most often want to not only forget about the events, but completely separate themselves from the events, which can be extremely difficult. Issues like anxiety, guilt, self-hatred and depression often stem from sexual abuse and create a mindset that encourages poor body image and self-destructive behavior. Bulimia is a coping mechanism for sexual abuse in that victims can place their anger, confusion, hatred and blame on a tangible object: their own body. Binging offers individuals a way to distract themselves with its planning and execution, along with numbing both physical and emotional needs. The other component of bulimia is purging, and this action allows victims of sexual abuse the opportunity to release feelings of rage and self-hatred. Symbolically, binging and purging represent the loss and regaining of control that victims experience during abuse. The body is helpless in individuals’ acts of overconsumption, and after the binging is complete, purging represents how victims must regain control and dispose of the unwanted food they consumed.

Another connection between sexual abuse history and bulimia is that victims use their eating disorder to create a body image that is so large or small that others find it undesirable. This can be seen as a defense mechanism to protect against being sexually victimized in the future.

Treating Bulimia and Sexual Abuse Issues Together

Addressing underlying issues of sexual abuse is an imperative process during the initial stages of treatment for bulimia and all eating disorders because recovering from an eating disorder will likely not happen if a person cannot recover from the trauma and abuse that has initiated the eating disorder in the first place. Recovery professionals recognize the need to provide specialized treatment programs that address both sexual abuse and bulimia at the same time through various therapies, counseling and other forms of effective treatment.

Find Specialized Treatment and Recovery Programs for Bulimia and Sexual Abuse

If you or someone you care about is struggling with bulimia and has been a victim of sexual abuse, we can help you find treatment and recovery programs that specialize in addressing both of these issues. There are numerous treatment options available for both bulimia and sexual abuse that offer patients an individualized approach to recovery. If you would like to learn more about these options for treatment and recovery, please call our toll-free number now and speak with a recovery professional. Recovery professionals are available 24 hours a day to assist you with all your questions, concerns and information needs.