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Relationship between Trauma History and Eating Disorders in Adolescents

Abstract

Reasons for developing an eating disorder (ED) are complex, yet one plausible risk factor gaining more relevance in adolescents with EDs is childhood trauma. The current study is the first to examine the presence of childhood trauma in relation to ED symptomatology in adolescents using DSM-5 criteria. It was hypothesized that patients with more traumatic experiences also have more severe ED symptoms. 112 therapists currently treating adolescent patients diagnosed with an ED completed an online survey consisting of a DSM-5 ED symptom checklist and a childhood trauma questionnaire on a current adolescent patient whom they have seen for at least eight sessions. Children with multiple traumatic experiences and the severity of those experiences demonstrated a relationship to overall ED (r = .179, p = .059) and bulimia symptoms (r = .183, p = .054), specifically binging (r = .188, p = .047). and purging (r = .217, p = .021). In addition, logistic regression analyses indicated that adolescents high on bulimia nervosa (B = 4.694, p = .044) were more likely to have been traumatized victims of violence. Exploratory analyses support prior literature that suggest similarities between adolescents’ lack of control of the experienced trauma(s) with lack of control of ED symptoms. These findings highlight the importance of exploring trauma history when treating an adolescent with an ED, especially bulimia.

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Correspondence to Taylor Groth.

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All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation [institutional and national] and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

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Groth, T., Hilsenroth, M., Boccio, D. et al. Relationship between Trauma History and Eating Disorders in Adolescents. Journ Child Adol Trauma 13, 443–453 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-019-00275-z

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Keywords

  • Trauma
  • Adolescents
  • Eating disorders
  • Bulimia