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Individualized Treatment for PTSD and Eating Disorders

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Castlewood has skilled clinicians with sub-specialty training and expertise in the treatment of PTSD and Eating Disorders.

Many clients that suffer from eating disorders have a history of trauma that often intrudes on their present life in such a manner that they feel overwhelmed, hypervigilant, and anxious. This results in the need for a coping mechanism to help them numb or avoid the traumatic memories and PTSD symptoms. The Eating Disorder provides such a coping mechanism. For many clients the underlying trauma must be addressed in order for symptoms to remit. A PTSD eating disorder requires very specialized and individualized care.

Symptoms of PTSD and Eating Disorders as a Coping Mechanisms

Client-centered, compassionate care is essential for a person with underlying trauma issues, and the trauma related PTSD eating disorders that they are often expressed through.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an Anxiety Disorder that develops after exposure to an extreme traumatic event, or series of events, that cause psychological trauma. PTSD can result after a single event such as a rape, car accident, or assault. Or PTSD can result after prolonged exposure to domestic violence, childhood abuse or neglect, or war.

Some common symptoms of PTSD and prolonged traumatic exposure anxiety are:

  • Avoiding places, feelings, thoughts or activities that remind the person of the traumatic event
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks of the traumatic event
  • Outbursts of anger/irritability
  • Hopelessness and/or severe depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional numbness
  • Stomach problems, headaches, chest pain, dizziness
  • Loss of interest in life and usual activities
  • Finding it difficult to fall asleep or to get back to sleep after waking up
  • Hypervigilance
  • Detachment from people and relationships

Attempting to cope with single exposures to a traumatic event, or years of trauma, can be the underlying issue in anorexia, bulimia, binge-eating disorder, and EDNOS. Clients and families may not be aware that PTSD or anxiety have a connection to the abnormal eating behaviors that are present.

Trauma can be caused by any overwhelming experience in childhood, adolescence or adulthood that is too difficult to integrate or make meaning.

Our therapists are trained in the latest trauma techniques for trauma stabilization and resolution, a requisite before the symptom can remit. We work with our clients to stabilize both eating disorder and PTSD symptoms through teaching CBT and DBT skills. Once a client is stable, we then begin working towards processing, resolution and integration. Compassionate, confidential care is integral to our PTSD eating disorder treatment.

Trauma and PTSD Eating Disorder Treatment at Castlewood

At Castlewood Treatment Center we understand that symptoms of PTSD and unresolved trauma can result in the development of an Eating Disorder. We work to help our clients resolve the underlying traumatic memories that result in PTSD and the need for ED symptoms. Castlewood will work with each client to create an individualized treatment plan that addresses the development of new skills for containment of PTSD symptoms. We will also implement various trauma resolution therapies to help clients address underlying trauma.

We utilize four primary forms of therapy to assist clients with trauma related and PTSD eating disorders:

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing

Clients who have suffered for years from anxiety or distressing memories, nightmares, insomnia, abuse or other traumatic incidents can often gain relief from a revolutionary therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Research shows that EMDR is safe and effective for trauma resolution. EMDR does not involve the use of drugs or hypnosis. It is a simple, non-invasive patient-therapist collaboration that can be highly effective for a wide range of disorders, including chronic pain, depression, panic attacks, and other issues.

Exposure and Response Prevention

Castlewood utilizes exposure and response prevention therapy, a specific type of cognitive-behavioral therapy, to treat anxiety disorders, including PTSD. Clients are asked to identify anxiety-provoking situations that they typically avoid altogether or have difficulty tolerating without using ritual or harmful behaviors. We then gradually and repetitively expose clients to these situations, while requesting that they not engage in ritual behaviors to cope with the anxiety or fear that they experience. With this consistent exposure to feared situations, clients allow themselves to see that what they fear will happen in a given situation will not actually occur, and as a result their anxiety about a previously feared situation reduces naturally.

In conjunction with exposure and response prevention therapy, Castlewood also utilizes other cognitive and behavioral therapies in the treatment of PTSD that allows us to challenge belief systems that maintain fears and ritual behaviors, as well as to provide clients with alternative skills to help them in managing their anxiety.

Attachment-Based Psychotherapy

The constant availability of a caretaker in infancy and childhood to provide safety, a healthy exploration of the environment, and help to learn to regulate emotions effectively results in secure attachment. The result of secure attachment is a person’s sense of security, a sense that the world is a safe place that one can rely on others for protection and support, and one can feel effective in exploring and operating in their environment. The result is a sense of both self-identity and esteem. Very few eating disorder clients have secure attachment or a solid sense of identity and feel confident in establishing adult relationships. Castlewood has developed a unique program involving group and individual therapy to increase secure attachments, which is critical for long-term symptom remission.

Internal Family Systems Therapy

Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy is a powerful tool in working with eating disorder clients. The cornerstone of IFS is to facilitate self-leadership and integration of “parts of self” that may become fragmented, split off and polarized within an individual. One part of a person may both want to give up the eating disorder and another part may want to not give it up; or in another instance, one part may feel fat, while another part knows the person is starving. IFS allows for working with such parts of self to facilitate integration.

Many eating disorder clients have found that through using the tools of Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS), they are able to relate to the eating disorder as being separate from the client’s self. This allows for a better understanding of factors maintaining and perpetuating the symptoms. In this process, clients often learn that the eating disorder actually protects them from re-experiencing or thinking about difficult things from their pasts, which is why they are ambivalent about giving up their symptoms.

Through IFS therapy clients begin to approach their eating disorder with curiosity and compassion. IFS therapy provides techniques to help the client heal the pain, shame, or fear from their pasts that the eating disorder protects them from experiencing. When these injured parts are healed, eating disorder symptoms begin to remit. The eating disorder part is no longer forced into such an extreme role and it can begin to take on other healthy ways of helping the client cope.

Family therapy is also integrated into all treatment programs and levels of care at Castlewood, including PTSD and eating disorders.