What Is the Connection Between PTSD and Binge Eating Disorder?

What Is the Connection Between PTSD and Binge Eating Disorder?

Woman sits with her knees up looking sad and thoughtfully into the distance.

Trauma affects us in many ways and can lead to issues like eating disorders and other problems that render us unable to cope with tough situations. As a leading cause of many problems, it’s easy to link traumatic conditions like PTSD to eating disorders that can impact an individual in many ways. But what exactly is the connection between PTSD and binge eating disorder, and how can one get the right treatment for both? With our help, take a deep dive into the impact of both these disorders.

The History Between Trauma and Eating Disorders

It’s not surprising that trauma and eating disorders are linked. Eating disorders often occur as a result of some traumatic situation or event (keep in mind that isn’t the only way). Trauma is a wide-ranging term used to describe various feelings and behaviors. On a larger scale, trauma describes an experience that disturbs us so much that it becomes difficult to cope with the reality of a situation.

Traumatic events often lead to individuals searching out ways to cope with their feelings, which is where food comes in. Studies have shown an increased likelihood of someone who experienced a traumatic event engaging in self-destructive behaviors such as binge eating. Researchers have also found a connection between trauma and eating disorders, but the direct relationship has yet to be understood.

How PTSD Leads to Binge Eating

While the relationship isn’t fully understood, there are ways we can link a disorder like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to binge eating. PTSD has been linked to binge eating disorder, likely due to some factors involving our stress hormones and mood-boosting chemicals in the brain. In most cases, the traumatic event occurs first, eventually leading to binging or purging. Researchers believe the link is related to some form of “escapism” or feeling of survivor’s guilt that leads to self-destructive desires.

Many people with binge eating disorders view their body image poorly, and research shows that PTSD only worsens it. For example, individuals with trauma stemming from sexual abuse may resort to binge eating tactics as self protection. While the direct link is still being understood, scientists use a few behaviors, links, and theories to link the two mental health conditions.

Trouble With Emotional Regulation

One of the more common symptoms of PTSD and other traumas is that people have trouble regulating their emotions. This difficulty in managing their feelings and adjusting their fight or flight response leads to stronger and more intense emotional reactions. In these moments, individuals can turn to food as a way to manage their emotions and expectations, especially considering our favorite foods are often associated with positive memories and experiences. Simply eating can release chemicals that make us feel calmer and happier, and someone with trouble regulating their emotions will see food as the one cure for their ills.

Self-Blame and Guilt

Individuals with PTSD often engage in destructive behaviors due to feelings of guilt and self-blame. These individuals often turn to destructive behaviors as a way of punishing themselves for what happened. The cycle of binging and purging is used to bring emotional satisfaction to their minds and levy an appropriate punishment for those who blame themselves for emotional abuse, sexual assault, or the passing of someone they’re close to.

How Can You Treat It?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be alone when dealing with your eating disorder and trauma. There are plenty of ways to treat PTSD and eating disorder symptoms, starting with getting professional help. Cognitive behavioral therapy is known as one of the more effective evidence-based treatments for both eating disorders and PTSD and is one of the first options most professionals will go to for someone with both disorders.

Prolonged exposure therapy can also help, as reliving trauma can increase the urge to binge, which doctors and therapists can work on solutions for. Either way, it’s important to get the right medical advice, and one of the best ways to do so is to look for a professional treatment center.

Shoreline Can Help You Stop Binging and Treat Many Other Eating Disorders

Regardless of what brought upon an eating disorder, it’s important that you get proper treatment before it’s too late. At Shoreline, we offer eating disorder PHP programs, provide ARFID treatment for adults, and have special treatment plans to address other eating disorders. No matter what contributed to you or a loved one’s binge eating disorder, contact Shoreline Center for Eating Disorder Treatment today at 562-434-6007 or complete our contact form.