Can Binge Eating Be a Trauma Response?

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Your eating concerns may not truly be about the food. In fact, it is common for people suffering from binge eating

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Your eating concerns may not truly be about the food. In fact, it is common for people suffering from binge eating disorder (BED) to eat as a trauma response. Here at Selah House, we are aware that your past experiences may be contributing to your eating disorder. In this article, we will walk you through how traumatic experiences may impact your relationship with food and how to seek freedom from your eating disorder.

Trauma and Eating Disorders

There is a known association between trauma and eating disorders. One study found that 24% of women with BED met the criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).1

Many people who have experienced trauma have a hard time coping with thoughts and emotions associated with their past. People manage these feelings the best way they know how and may lean into the behaviors that make them feel better, even if it is only temporary relief.  This relief may not feel great, but it may be just enough to make your difficult emotions feel tolerable for the moment.

Unfortunately, many techniques people use to feel better can cause an unhealthy relationship with food, alcohol, or other substances.

People who have experienced trauma often feel shame or embarrassment. They may even believe that it is somehow their fault, which can affect their self-worth. Therefore, they may feel like they are not worthy of treatment and support.

This is especially true of BED due to a cultural misconception that binge eating is an issue of willpower.  BED isn’t healed by “trying harder.” Healing begins when you compassionately look at how your thoughts, emotions, experiences, and genetic predispositions are affecting your eating.

How Does Trauma Lead to Eating Disorders?

Those suffering from binge eating disorder may report some of the following reasons for bingeing:

  • Numbing of emotions
  • Feeling less connected to your body
  • Distraction from hard emotions
  • Creating safety from others

Once the binge is over, most people find themselves experiencing shame, guilt, or hopelessness. Most people with BED do not feel like bingeing is a “logical” response. They may ask themselves why they can’t stop, further increasing their feeling of shame. It doesn’t seem to make sense.

However, when you recognize that these eating behaviors are providing some kind of temporary relief, it does make sense. You’re doing the best you can to manage really difficult emotions.

The good news is that you can feel better and heal from your eating disorder. While eating does not offer lasting relief from the hardship of trauma, there is hope for those struggling with binge eating.

Finding Support for Binge Eating Recovery

If you are struggling with binge eating, you are not alone. Our compassionate team of eating disorder professionals would feel honored to support you on your journey to recovery. If you are ready to take your first step to feel confident around food, give us a call at 765.442.3551 or fill out our contact form to get started.

Resources

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3523332/

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