A recent study, in press in Appetite, examines the association between eating disorders and different types of trauma.

Eating disorders are characterized by abnormal eating and eating-related behaviours. Three common eating disorders are anorexia nervosabulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

People who meet the criteria for anorexia nervosa have a severe fear of becoming fat; they also experience body image distortions (e.g., perceiving themselves to be overweight even when, objectively speaking, they are underweight). People with anorexia restrict their food intake to the point that their weight falls below what is considered minimal normal weight (as determined by the their age, height, etc).

Another common disorder, bulimia nervosa, is characterized by a type of cyclical behavior, of eating binges followed by self-induced vomiting (and/or misuse of laxatives and other extreme measures to avoid gaining weight).

Binge-eating disorder is somewhat similar to bulimia, except that in this disorder the eating binges are not usually followed by extreme compensatory behaviors.

Previous studies have linked eating disorders to a number of issues at different stages in development. Some of these factors include gastrointestinal problems, picky eating, physical neglect, and sexual abuse (during childhood); self-esteem issues (in early adolescence); and perception of not receiving enough social support from one’s family (in late adolescence).

The most potent risk factors for the development of eating disorders are likely constant weight concerns, and to a lesser extent, having a history of physical neglect and/or sexual abuse.

Though sexual abuse can result in trauma, so can physical trauma. Indeed, a 2016 review found that physical abuse was associated with all eating disorders examined.

Some researchers, including the present study’s authors, have suggested the need to study additional potentially traumatising events (e.g., exposure to loss/death, bullying, war, etc) because these events may not only play a role in the development of eating disorders but also in the disorders’ symptom severity and prognosis.

This article was originally published by Psychology Today. Click here to read the entire piece.


Find out more about the latest research in eating disorders

The National Eating Disorders & Obesity Conference will be held at Twin Towns Services Club on Thursday 27 – Friday 28 September 2018.

This annual conference will provide the opportunity to share current research, celebrate successes and address challenges whilst learning and networking with like-minded professionals in the prevention, treatment and care of people living with an eating disorder and/or obesity.

Register to secure your space here.

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