Not that Simple: Connecting the Dots between Eating Disorders, Trauma, and Domestic Violence
March 4, 2017
At the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), we acknowledge the critical intersections between domestic violence, trauma, and mental health. Survivors of domestic violence are at higher risk to develop eating disorders due to trauma from violence.  During this year’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA) (February 26 to March 4), we recognize eating disorders as public health issues and stand with survivors who battle eating disorders and other mental health issues caused by domestic violence.
Trauma is a common source for mental health issues, including eating disorders. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, individuals who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence are at greater risk for developing an eating disorder, particularly bulimia nervosa.  Behaviors associated with bulimia nervosa can give survivors a sense of regaining control over their bodies and lives.  Additionally, perpetrators will use a victim’s current mental health status to control and intimidate them.
It is important to acknowledge the link between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma, domestic violence, and eating disorders. Survivors may use eating disorder behaviors to cope with symptoms of PTSD such as flashbacks, dissociative episodes, and anxiety. It is not uncommon for survivors of domestic violence to struggle with PTSD due to trauma inflicted by the abuser. Eating disorder behaviors can allow survivors to be distracted from reality, escape painful emotions, or feel present in their bodies. [2, 3]
To those experiencing domestic violence - we believe you. To those struggling with eating disorders - we support you. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder or experiencing domestic violence, you can contact the National Eating Disorders Association at (800) 931-2237 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233.
 National Eating Disorders Association, “Trauma, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Eating Disorders,” https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/trauma-posttraumatic-stress-disorder-and-eating-disorders
 National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, & Mental Health, “Research Update: Three New Articles on the Relationship between IPV and Mental Health,” http://www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/3-new-articles-IPV-MH.pdf
 National Eating Disorders Association, “Trauma and Eating Disorders,” https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/sites/default/files/ResourceHandouts/TraumaandEatingDisorders.pdf