Treatment for Sexual Trauma and Eating Disorders

Treatment for Sexual Trauma and Eating DisordersAs researchers better understand the link between sexual trauma and eating disorders, new treatment approaches are helping individuals achieve recovery.

Types of Eating Disorders

It’s not unusual to worry about eating habits or weight gain, but a person with an eating disorder is so focused on food it takes over all other aspects of her life. The American Psychological Association (APA) identifies three main types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia nervosa: a person views herself as overweight or fat even when she is thin to the point of being unhealthy, she will control eating habits to the point of starvation
  • Bulimia nervosa: a person eats excessive amounts of food, then purges by forcing himself to vomit or by using laxatives
  • Binge eating: a person will eat excessively but will not purge

People with eating disorders are more likely than others to suffer from a co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse, according to the APA.

Link Between Sexual Trauma and Eating Disorders

A person may suffer with an eating disorder for a variety of reasons, but for some people past sexual trauma is a catalyst for struggles with food. Researchers recommend including questions about possible sexual trauma during intake procedures for individuals with anorexia or other disorders.

Around 30 percent of sexual trauma survivors suffer with an eating disorder and the number may be even higher due to the likelihood of underreporting, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). Some scientists believe trauma sufferers feel ashamed of their bodies and are likely to harm themselves through behaviors like cutting or practicing dangerous eating habits.

People who suffer from bulimia appear to have more commonly experienced past trauma. Researchers associate the cycle of binge eating and purging with a need for emotional numbness. Other individuals who may have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder due to trauma include the following, according to NEDA:

  • Victims of sexual abuse, especially at a young age
  • Victims or observers of domestic violence
  • Individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder

Eating disorders and sexual trauma are both serious issues that require professional treatment.

Need Help Finding Treatment for Sexual Trauma and an Eating Disorder?

If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder brought on by sexual trauma, please call our toll-free helpline. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help answer your questions about eating disorders and offer steps toward recovery. Do not let trauma stand in the way of a better life. Call us today.