Trauma and Eating Disorder
Trauma can be caused by any overwhelming experience in childhood, adolescence or adulthood that is too difficult to integrate or make meaning. Although there is a large incidence of child sexual abuse such that one in three eating disorder clients have unresolved sexual abuse, there are also a large number of other traumas commonly associated with eating disorder. For example, when childhood bonding with caretakers has been problematic or when painful experiences in school with peers or dating were traumatic. Our therapists are trained in the latest trauma techniques for trauma stabilization and resolution, a requisite before the symptom can remit.
The long-term effect of unresolved early attachment and traumatic occurrences is reenactments. Individuals experience flashbacks, chronic illness or pain in their body, destructive relationships, poor boundaries in social interaction, and repeated self-destructive behavior. Eating disorder is an example of a reenactment in that the symptom keeps persisting until the underlying trauma is resolved. In certain cases, we find that working with childhood trauma is necessary for long-term symptom resolution.
Trauma Treatment Approaches
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. 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 anxiety disorders 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.
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.
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