The Importance of Treating PTSD & Eating Disorders Together

Contributor: Kirsten Haglund, Community Relations Specialist, Timberline Knolls

Full recovery and freedom from an eating disorder involves pulling up some serious roots. Any brave soul who has emerged victorious from a battle with an eating disorder, addiction or other behavioral health issue knows that facing the struggles and wounds of one’s past is an important step toward healing.

The roots of a disorder usually run deep and must be pulled up. Otherwise, you are just plucking off the leaves and the tree remains. Given time, the leaves will return.

A Short History on Eating Disorder Treatment

Historically, eating disorders have been treated by themselves, as their own issue, often isolated in the treatment setting from issues of addiction, mood disorders and trauma.

However, research as well as anecdotal experience in the treatment setting shows that many of these issues are intermingled and intertwined within an individual, and so a fractured treatment experience can do more harm than good.

A human being is not fractured in such a way – they are complex and their “roots” are all interwoven. They must therefore be treated as a whole, not in parts, in order to have hope for a full recovery.

The Role of Trauma in Eating Disorders

Teacher thinkingThere is growing attention to the role that trauma may play in the development of eating disorders – and rightly so. Professionals and families alike are becoming more aware of the connection and relationship between the onset of an eating disorder and a history of trauma.

Therefore, for some individuals, the importance of seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder alongside of treatment for an eating disorder is essential.

Those suffering from PTSD have been shown to use eating disorder behaviors in an effort to control or cope with circumstances, or avoid the strong and persistent emotions they have when re-living a traumatic experience. It is a hopeful and encouraging sign that treatment professionals and the larger mental health community are beginning to see that these co-occurring issues do not exist in a vacuum.

Making Sure Individuals Get Proper Care

And so, the next step, as families of loved ones who are struggling, as advocates, and as professionals in the field – is to make sure individuals get the proper care that they need and deserve. I have seen, firsthand, in my work and relationships, the tremendous difference that having access to the full spectrum of care makes for an individual.

A human being is made of many moving, complex parts, and ideally, a treatment team will be assembled to make sure that all of the pieces are being addressed in concert.

Finding Specialists for Co-Occurring Disorders

Portrait of confident doctor looking at camera.From a place of love and compassion, we must insist that those who struggle with PTSD and an eating disorder get into the care of specialists who’ve worked with both, and can work on them together. It is the best and most fundamental way to address those stubborn “roots.”

If trauma is indeed a part of the root issues involving an eating disorder, speak up, and make sure that your treatment team is experienced in treating both.

When the whole person is addressed, the healing process receives as strong, solid, and hopeful foundation for a full and free recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

Have you or someone you loved struggled with the effects of an Eating Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? What steps were taken in order to achieve holistic healing and recovery? What advice do you have to share?

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.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 21st, 2015
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.