Seeking Eating Disorder Treatment as a Domestic Violence Survivor

Woman struggling with clean eating

Sadly, countless men, women and children are victims of domestic violence, both across our nation and around the world. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in three women and one in four men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner stalking, and/or intimate partner sexual violence in their lifetime [1].

More than 10 million men and women experience physical abuse by an intimate partner per year in the United States alone, though domestic violence can take many different forms [1].

Some of the most common types of domestic violence may include physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual rape, assault, or harassment, financial abuse, and psychological abuse.

The implications of domestic abuse can be severe, resulting in many damaging consequences for the victim and survivor.

Connection Between Domestic Violence and Eating Disorders

A person who has been subject to domestic violence can suffer many unwanted physical, mental, and psychological consequences as a result of these actions and behaviors. Research has found an association between intimate partner violence and increased mental health issues, including the risk of mood disorders, suicidal behaviors, and eating disorders [2].

Man Experiencing SadnessSadly, many of the victims of domestic violence are unaware of the abuse they may be experiencing, which can prevent them from seeking out help before some of these damaging consequences occur.

Many individuals who are the victim of domestic violence and also at risk for developing an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder, may develop one of these psychiatric illnesses.

Risk factors for eating disorders include a combination of both biological and environmental factors.  The experience of trauma through domestic violence can increase a person’s risk for an eating disorder, particularly if other risk factors are present as well.

A domestic violence survivor may engage in eating disorder behaviors as an attempt to establish some sense of control, particularly when one feels as though their surroundings are chaotic, or that they do not have control over their body.

These feelings may be the result of experiencing domestic violence, particularly when a person’s body has been abused and/or violated. An eating disorder can also develop inadvertently as a way to deal with the overwhelming shame and guilt that is experienced as a result of domestic violence.

Seeking Out Help and Care

If you have been the victim of domestic violence and are also struggling with an eating disorder, it is important to know that you are not alone. You have likely felt ashamed, guilty, or even embarrassed to talk to anyone about what you have experienced, but it is important to connect with someone who cares as a first step toward receiving help.

Eating disorders thrive in isolation, and it will be difficult to find healing or recovery from the trauma you have experienced if you continue to internalize this pain. If you are in immediate danger due to domestic violence, it is crucial to seek out help as soon as you possibly can.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a free online chat service through their website, as well as a toll-free number at (800) 799-7233 [3]. Your eating disorder behaviors cannot adequately be addressed without getting help for domestic violence, so please reach out for help if you find yourself in an abusive situation.

Finding Care as a Domestic Violence Survivor

If you are a domestic violence survivor and find yourself dealing with an eating disorder, it is important to seek out comprehensive care for to heal from the underlying trauma you have experienced.

Woman Walking On The Beach facing domestic abuse

Consider finding an eating disorder treatment center that offers therapeutic services specifically geared to those who have dealt with trauma, as you may benefit from certain forms of psychotherapy that promote healing.

Because eating disorders and domestic violence are often correlated with one another, it is crucial to address both simultaneously in a comprehensive treatment program that offers medical care, nutritional rehabilitation, and therapy/counseling.

Consider connecting with a treatment center today by searching the Eating Disorder Treatment Center Directory on Eating Disorder Hope, and inquire directly about services offered for trauma recovery.

While it may be difficult to revisit such a painful past, it is good to know that you do not have to journey through this experience alone.

There are many resources and professionals who are specialized in treating both trauma and eating disorders and who can support you in your recovery journey.

Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Contributing Writer for Eating Disorder Hope.

Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.


[1] Center for Disease Control, “National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey – 2010 Summary Report”, Accessed 4 August 2017
[2]: “Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence”, Accessed 4 August 2017
[3]: The National Domestic Hotline, “Eating Disorders and Domestic Violence: Is there a correlation?”, Accessed 4 August 2017

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on October 2, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 2, 2017.
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