Trauma-Informed Approaches to Eating Disorders is clearly a much needed and long overdue book about treatment, written by a diverse group of clinicians and carefully edited to focus on the needs and strengths of clinicians. The complexities and challenges that undergird, surround, and even haunt the nature, diagnosis, treatment, management, and understanding of eating disorders (EDs)-in-relation-to-trauma are so great, even for veteran clinicians, that they can leave practitioners at any level of experience feeling helpless and exhausted. This book, in a way that would be appreciated by practitioners of acceptance and commitment therapy, accepts the reality of those feelings and is committed to improving treatment, understanding, and compassion. The book is designed to foster respect for complexity and link it to humility in the presence of tragedy, tribulations, and suffering, framed all too often by our own shortcomings as healers. EDs are dangerous, ubiquitous, usually chronic in nature, and difficult to treat. Anorexia nervosa (AN) has the highest fatality rate (4%) of any mental illness. Bulimia nervosa reveals a fatality rate of 3.9%. EDs offer an enormous challenge to therapists because of their complexity, which includes severe medical risk, co-occurring anxiety, depression and personality disorders, an addiction component, and body image distortion—all of this within a mediadriven culture of thinness in which starving and purging can for some become lifestyle choices. This complexity is further exacerbated by the presence of painful life experiences or trauma. The book elucidates the connection between trauma and EDs by offering a trauma-informed phase model, as well as chapters describing the ways in which various therapeutic models address each of those phases. It offers an in-depth exposition of a fourphase model of trauma treatment.
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Overwhelming evidence exists that traumatic experiences leave traces in our minds and bodies. Traumatic experiences such as sexual, physical, and emotional abuse have a negative impact on our capacities to relate to and trust other people, but also on the neurobiological functioning of our brain and thus our mind. They also affect our immune systems. Hence, traumatic experiences make dealing with emotions, both positive and negative, quite challenging. In this chapter, a “state-of-the-art” review reveals the presence of a wide variety of traumatic experiences and their consequences in anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder patients. Almost all studies investigated the association of retrospectively reported childhood abuse with current ED symptoms using cross-sectional designs. A special focus is on the presence of dissociation in ED patients, as it is one of the main characteristics in EDs with severe trauma.