The Center for Eating Disorders offers specialized therapy for individuals with eating disorders who have also been impacted by trauma.
Eating disorders are multidimensional problems that stem from a combination of underlying factors. For some patients, a history of trauma may have played an important role in the formation and perpetuation of their eating disorder. Further, the trauma may be directly relevant to the presenting eating disorder symptomatology. In such cases, an integration of trauma treatment and standard eating disorder treatment may be recommended to promote holistic healing and a full range of opportunities for recovery.
PTSD and Trauma Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can develop following any traumatic event that threatens your safety or makes you feel helpless. After a traumatic experience, it’s normal for someone to feel scared, sad, anxious, or even numb. These feelings generally fade over time and a person is able to return to their normal functioning. However, sometimes a trauma is so overwhelming that these upsetting feelings may linger and intensify to a point that they significantly interfere with life and keep a person stuck in the traumatic experience. It is not uncommon for individuals with PTSD to engage in dangerous eating disorder behaviors in an attempt to cope with these painful memories. Some of the signs and symptoms of PTSD are listed below:
- Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event
- Flashbacks and/or Nightmares
- Feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma
- Intense physical reactions to reminders of the event (e.g. pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, sweating)
- Avoiding activities, places, thoughts, or feelings that remind you of the trauma
- Inability to remember important aspects of the trauma
- Loss of interest in activities or life in general
- Feeling detached from others and emotionally numb
- Sense of a limited future
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Irritability or outbursts of anger
- Difficulty concentrating
- Hypervigilance (on constant “red alert”)
- Feeling jumpy and easily startled
- Anger and irritability
- Guilt, shame, or self-blame
- Substance abuse
- Feelings of mistrust and betrayal
- Depression and hopelessness
- Suicidal thoughts and feelings
- Feeling alienated and alone
- Physical aches and pains
Our Trauma Specialty Track is a unique therapeutic opportunity to simultaneously address the eating disorder and the effects of trauma
At The Center for Eating Disorders, specialized Trauma treatment is based on methods with empirical support and following expert consensus guidelines. That is, similar to the treatment of eating disorders in general, trauma treatment is based on an approach that highlights the importance of biological, psychological, and social factors.
In addition to receiving individualized eating disorder interventions, The Center’s trauma specialty track offers the following therapeutic components:
- Specific CBT-based trauma work during individual psychotherapy
- Weekly participation in trauma group therapies including psychoeducation, skills training and art therapy.
- Individualized nutritional counseling around trauma-related fear foods
- Daily psychiatric assessment and treatment of trauma symptomatology.
- Individualized trauma work during art therapy and other expressive therapies
- All individual and group trauma work is specially tailored to address the individual’s age and developmental needs.
Similar to all patients in our program, the therapy focus will be determined based on individual needs but within the context of the trauma. Additionally, it should be noted that for all patients, regardless of therapy track, the goal of individual therapy is to cultivate an understanding of the development, maintenance, and purpose of their eating disorder while reducing and eliminating eating disordered behaviors. Thus, the individual conceptualization of the eating disorder will therefore need to include an understanding of the personal meaning of the trauma. And, eating disorder symptom management occurs concurrently with trauma symptom management.
Overall, the therapy will allow for an understanding of the links in meaning between the trauma and the eating disorder while developing and practicing adaptive coping skills. At the Center for Eating Disorders, trauma therapy is CBT-based and includes the following 5 stages:
Stage 1: Education about trauma symptoms and reactions
Stage 2: Learning about and practicing behavioral coping skills such as grounding,
containment, stimulus control, distraction and stress management
Stage 3: Identification and modification of thoughts related to the trauma that are
Stage 4: Identification of core assumptions and beliefs related to the trauma
Stage 5: Restoration of functional beliefs and adaptive coping patterns.
The Trauma Specialty Track is available for patients in our Inpatient Program and Partial Hospital Program (PHP). Often times, patients will continue trauma-focused therapy as they progress through treatment and step down into outpatient care with an individual therapist. It is important to continue this work after hospitalization to promote continued healing from the trauma and the eating disorder.
If you have questions about the Trauma Specialty Track, please call us at (410) 938-5252.