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Eating Disorders History

For many people with an eating disorder, history matters. Their personal history, that is. While there are a number of potential factors involved in eating disorders, one of the risks for an eating disorder is a history of past abuse.

Remuda Programs for Eating Disorders, an eating disorder treatment center, reports that more than 50 percent of its patients have experienced trauma in their lives. The trauma is
usually sexual, physical and emotional abuse. "Forty-nine percent of our patients have experienced childhood sexual abuse," said Amy Spahr, clinical director at Remuda Programs for Eating Disorders. "This is about 20 percent higher than in the general population. Additionally, in the last five years, 11 percent of adolescent and 20
percent of adult patients were diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD)."

Research has shown that childhood sexual abuse increases binge-eating, purging, restricting calories, body shame and body dissatisfaction. Eating disorders become a way of helping victims cope with shame. They feel they may need to modify their body in ways that reduce shame or distress. For example, a woman suffering from trauma and an eating disorder may wish to reduce her breast size in order to appear less feminine and therefore, less appealing to men because of her past sexual abuse.

However, for people with eating disorders, history is not destiny. It is possible to develop a healthy relationship with food and with one’s own body.