top of page
  • Writer's pictureCatherine Lott

When you have an eating disorder and cptsd

Treating Your Eating Disorder and Your Complex Trauma

Eating disorders are a serious mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of their age, gender, or ethnicity. These disorders have complex roots, and they can be linked to many different components, including biological, environmental, and psychological factors.

One common factor that is often overlooked, however, is the link between eating disorders and complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). In this article, we will explore the relationship between eating disorders and complex trauma and provide some practical tips.

Again, there is never one root cause. Understanding that your anxiety and perfectionism, for example, or your chronic people -pleasing, are helping to maintain your eating disorder and committing to do the work to address these issues, is going to help you recover. If you have a trauma history, you're going to have to deal with that too: there is an undeniable link between eating disorders and trauma; your eating disorder has been a mechanism to help you to survive the pain and struggle of that trauma, but it is now keeping you trapped in both.

The Relationship between Eating Disorders and Complex PTSD

Complex post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of PTSD that results from experiencing recurring or prolonged exposure to trauma. It is characterized by symptoms such as emotional dysregulation, difficulty with interpersonal relationships, and a distorted self-image. People with complex PTSD often experience a sense of hopelessness and helplessness and may struggle with feelings of shame and guilt.

Eating disorders and complex PTSD are closely linked. Research has shown that individuals with eating disorders are more likely to have experienced trauma, particularly during their childhood. Similarly, people with complex PTSD are more likely to develop eating disorders as means to cope with their trauma. With C-PTSD, the danger of falling into eating disorders is even greater. People suffering from C-PTSD typically have difficulty with ‘affect regulation’, or managing strong emotions. Life for a sufferer from C-PTSD is an emotional rollercoaster with frequent and often unpredictable triggers sending them into extremes of anxiety, anger or sadness. The relationship between eating disorders and complex PTSD is complex and multifaceted, but it will be important to address both conditions to achieve a successful recovery.

Types of Trauma that can Lead to Eating Disorders

There are many different types of trauma that can lead to the development of an eating disorder. Some of the most common include:

  • Emotional abuse or neglect

  • Physical or sexual abuse

  • Bullying or harassment

  • Witnessing or experiencing violence

  • Medical trauma or illness

  • Family dysfunction or conflict

These experiences can cause a sense of shame, guilt and powerlessness, which can contribute to the triggering of an eating disorder. The act of consciously self-starving or engaging in purging in order to change body shape can be used to reassert control over our own body when that has been taken away. and ,while engaging in these extreme forms of behaviour, we can experience a sense of relief from feelings of distress and mental anguish similar to that experienced by the use of drugs and alcohol.

What Complex PTSD and Eating Disorders Have in Common

Eating disorders and complex PTSD have many similarities. Both conditions are often characterized by feelings of shame, guilt, and helplessness. They can also be linked to a distorted self-image and a preoccupation with control.

Both conditions can also lead to a sense of isolation and difficulty with interpersonal relationships. Those with eating disorders may avoid social situations due to concerns about food, while those with complex PTSD may struggle to trust others or maintain healthy relationships.

Proper Care and Concurrent Treatment for Eating Disorders and Complex PTSD

Treating eating disorders and complex PTSD concurrently is important to achieve a successful recovery. Both conditions require specialized treatment that addresses your unique needs.

Treatment for eating disorders often involves a combination of therapy and medication, and Similarly, treatment for complex PTSD may involve therapy, medication, somatic interventions and other forms of support, such as group therapy or mindfulness practices. As a practitioner I approach eating disorder treatment through a trauma-informed lens, as, in so many ways beyond the scope of this article, eating disorders can be considered a trauma in themselves.


It is essential to find a provider who has experience working with both eating disorders and complex trauma. Many treatment mental health providers, such as AEDRA Eating Disorder Centre, specialize in treating these conditions concurrently. They can provide an integrated approach that addresses your unique needs and help you achieve a successful recovery.

In addition to professional treatment, there are many things that individuals can do to support their recovery. This may include developing a strong support network, engaging in self-care, self-acceptance and moderate, mindful exercise and clarifying their values and beliefs.

If you're struggling with anything mentioned in this article, please reach out for help


bottom of page