Childhood Trauma and Eating Disorders
No one’s childhood is perfect and everyone has issues to deal with as a child. Dealing with experiences in childhood is part of training and growth for adult life. All life is a challenge, all of us have many ups and downs and difficulties in life yet to face. Through life’s hard times we become stronger. We also learn compassion and empathy for others.
Many people with eating disorders will look to some childhood trauma as the cause. The trauma will not be the sole responsibility for the cause of the eating disorder. As with any form of addiction, there will be those who have had the same experiences but have not gone on to become alcoholic, or a drug addict or to have an eating disorder. Addiction and eating disorders can run in families from generation to generation – but then so can a difficult upbringing with issues of neglect or abuse.
Dr Robert Lefever, a leading expert in the field believes that in order for an individual to develop an eating disorder then three circumstances are usually present:
1) there is an inherited defect in neurotransmission in the mood centre of the brain
2) there is some form of event or trauma that awakens a need for mood alteration
3) the individual is exposed to the mood altering substance that works for them as an individual
Without the inherited predisposition, Dr Lefever believes that an eating disorder or addiction will not develop. People may become heavy drinkers or drug users in specific circumstances. They will not have that spiritual emptiness which leads to them craving something to fill the void. Consequently they will be able to stop using the drink or drugs when their circumstances change.
Those with the inherited predisposition have to learn to live with it – for example by remaining abstinent and practising a Twelve Step Programme.
Those who have had some traumatic experience in their lives will need some form of therapy to help them address it. Specifically any self pity and blame surrounding it. While any abuse that occurred is totally unacceptable and wrong. The victim needs to be helped to move on otherwise it will blight their life. In the end these people cannot change their past or what was done in it. They can change themselves and how they deal with what has occurred.
People who believe that how they feel and act today is because of what others have done to them have a long and hard journey ahead. Only by taking personal responsibility for themselves and how they feel will they have a hope of some form of happy recovery. No one can give us or take away our self-esteem – that is in our own gift.
If you have an alcohol or drug related problem, please call The Haynes Clinic on 0330 333 8184 for free and confidential advice and help. The Haynes Clinic offers residential treatment for dependency on alcohol, drugs and prescription medication. We can also help with other addictions such as gambling and with eating disorders.