Treatment for Sexual Trauma and Eating Disorders

Treatment for Sexual Trauma and Eating DisordersFor some people, unresolved issues from sexual trauma compound the seriousness of an eating disorder. The link between eating disorders and sexual trauma is the subject of many studies. A 1989 study of patients in a Florida hospital found that 50 percent of the women being treated for eating disorders experienced past sexual abuse, compared to 28 percent of women in a control population. The study was published in Psychiatric Medicine and found women improved dramatically if they discussed their sexual abuse with a therapist.

How Does Sexual Trauma Lead to an Eating Disorder?

According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), an individual with an eating disorder commonly uses food and consumption as a way to handle overwhelming feelings. Since eating disorders have a serious impact on health and can be fatal, therapists should address the possible connection between the need to control food and past sexual abuse. While many people associate eating disorders with women, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of men suffer with an eating disorder, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. Therefore, both sexes suffer the dangerous consequences of this unhealthy practice.

Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders

Individuals who suffer from sexual trauma may also experience a damaged body image. Some people practice self-starvation or binge eating to change body shape and protect themselves from future abuse. By taking extreme control over eating habits, survivors of sexual abuse feel more in control of life.

According to RAINN, any of the following effects of sexual abuse may contribute to an eating disorder:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling a lack of control or inadequacy
  • Feeling depressed, anxious, angry or lonely
  • Having trouble communicating emotions and feelings

These problems lead people to look for ways to cope with these problems, which may encourage an eating disorder.

Types of Eating Disorders

RAINN defines the following three eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa, which is when patients starve themselves to experience dramatic weight loss
  • Binge eating disorder, which is when people eat large amounts of food during a short time to feel better
  • Bulimia nervosa, where patients eat large amounts of food and then voluntary vomit the food to compensate for binge eating

If you struggle with any of these problems after surviving sexual abuse, the two problems may be related and require simultaneous treatment.

Treatment for Sexual Abuse and Eating Disorders

The consequences of an eating disorder are serious, so it is crucial to find help as soon as possible. If you or a loved one endured sexual abuse and now suffer from an eating disorder, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline right now. We are here to offer advice, so call us and get started on the path to recovery.