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It is no secret in the field of eating disorder treatment that there is a strong correlation between trauma and eating disorders. Just as abuse is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality, so it is with eating disorders; neither abuse nor eating disorders discriminate. When an eating disorder is entangled in the roots of abuse, the trauma resulting from the abuse needs to be treated, along with the eating disorder. The research is clear that traumatic events, especially those involving abuse or violence between people, have been found to be significant risk factors for the development for a variety of psychiatric disorders, including eating disorders.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), “On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime. 4 in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime.” These statistics have increased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stressors that fueled perpetrators further. Unresolved trauma often equals Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Two major national representative studies have shown that individuals with bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or any binge eating have significantly higher rates of PTSD than individuals without an eating disorder. These include the National Women’s Study and the National Comorbidity Survey Replication; the highest rates of lifetime PTSD were 38% and 44% respectively in the BN groups. When we cross reference these statistics and studies on trauma and eating disorders, we have a recipe for double despair. These statistics and studies only mirror what’s been documented. Experts agree that incidents of abuse, trauma and eating disorders are much higher, but are unreported. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month; I can think of no better time to explore how to best help those trapped in this double despair.