It is no secret that living with an eating disorder can be a devastating experience. When that eating disorder is accompanied by untreated trauma, the potential for devastation can be exponentially worse.
If you are simultaneously dealing with an eating disorder and trauma, then you already know the seemingly insurmountable challenges that battling these two disorders present. However, at Center for Hope of the Sierras, we know that many people who have been impacted by both an eating disorder and trauma do not even realize the role that trauma has played in their struggles until they are in the midst of receiving treatment.
First, it is important to understand that there is no shame in not fully comprehending the effect that trauma may be having upon your life. One of the more insidious aspects of trauma is that it can be difficult to recognize, especially by the person who is directly afflicted. But if you have been living with an eating disorder, understanding the nature of trauma can be an important step in ensuring that you get the treatment that will best prepare you for long-term recovery.
If you are not sure if you have been experiencing trauma, please consider the following:
The American Psychological Association (APA) describes trauma as the emotional response to a terrible event. In addition to combat and emergency medical situations, other occurrences that can lead to the development of trauma include automobile accidents, acts of terrorism, serious illnesses, physical or emotional abuse, verbal or online harassment, and the death or loss of a loved one.
Experiencing shock or being in denial are common reactions in the immediate aftermath of situations such as the ones described in the previous paragraph. However, if you continue to experience unpleasant symptoms, such as recurrent memories, flashbacks, irrational fears, and physical pain that was not directly caused by the event, you may be experiencing trauma.
Trauma has been associated with a wide range of self-defeating behaviors, including the development of an eating disorder. At Center for Hope of the Sierras, we have developed effective programming to provide comprehensive solutions for people who are dealing with trauma and an eating disorder. When you choose to heal at Center for Hope of the Sierras, you will participate in a variety of therapeutic activities that will help you learn to manage your symptoms, process your emotions in healthier ways, and overcome the psychological distress that is presenting you from living the productive and satisfying life that you both desire and deserve.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), between 3 and 4 percent of adults in the United States will experience trauma in any given 12-month period, with about 35 percent of these cases being labeled severe. Unfortunately, only about 50 percent of people who have trauma get the professional help that they need.
The National Center for Mental Health Promotion and Youth Violence Prevention reports that one in four children in the United States will experience or witness a traumatic event before they reach age four, and that more than 60 percent will be exposed to crime or violence by the time they turn 17. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that about 10 percent of women in the United States and 4 percent of men will experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during their lifetimes.
Signs and Symptoms of Trauma among Those Suffering from Eating Disorders
Trauma does not manifest with the same symptoms in all cases. The indications that signify a person is experiencing trauma may vary depending upon a variety of personal factors, but the following are among the more common behavioral, physical, cognitive, and psychosocial symptoms:
- Avoiding activities or places that remind one of the traumatic event
- Having irrational responses to stimuli that remind one of the traumatic event
- Decline in performance at work or in school
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Unexplained outbursts of anger or aggressiveness
- Acting in a dangerous or reckless manner
- Abusing alcohol or another drug
- Sleep problems, including disturbingly vivid nightmares
- Abdominal pain
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Experiencing flashbacks, or recurrent memories of the traumatic incident
- Suicidal ideation
- Agitation and irritability
- Dramatic mood swings
- Emotional detachment
Effects of Trauma among Those Suffering from Eating Disorders
If you do not get effective treatment for the trauma that you have been experiencing, you may be at increased risk for the following negative effects:
- High blood pressure
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Digestive problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Substance abuse
- Family discord
- Ruined interpersonal relationships
- Social withdrawal and self-isolation
- Injuries related to substance abuse or reckless behavior
- Academic failure
- Job loss and chronic unemployment
- Suicidal ideation
Types of Treatment Offered at Center for Hope of the Sierras
From the day we accepted our first client in 2003, Center for Hope of the Sierras has been dedicated to providing life-changing treatment to adolescents and adults who are struggling with eating disorders and co-occurring concerns, such as experiencing trauma. Housed in a beautiful, 10-bed, country-style home in a quiet neighborhood, Center for Hope offers a nurturing and supportive environment in which clients work in close collaboration with experienced professionals whose skills are surpassed only by their compassion and commitment.
Our treatment options include residential, partial hospitalization, and intensive outpatient programs for adolescent and adult females, ages 16 and up (ages 14 and up for PHP and IOP). We also provide PHP and IOP treatment for adolescent and adult males, ages 14 and up.
Center for Hope is also proud to be one of the few residential eating disorder programs in the United States that accepts clients who follow vegan or vegetarian diets, or who have celiac disease.
In addition to treating the specific symptoms of eating disorders and trauma, one of our primary objectives is to introduce you to the concept of intuitive eating. We will work closely with you to develop the ability to be an intuitive, mindful eater, and we will provide you with the guidance you need to overcome the diet mentality, understand food as a means of fueling your body, and appreciate how appropriate nutrition can help you respect your body and honor your health. We have found that adhering to the philosophy of intuitive eating can help you to develop a greater sense of self-confidence that can be an essential component of your long-term recovery.
When you have the opportunity to collaborate with the experienced and compassionate professionals at Center for Hope, the pain you have been experiencing can be transformed into the promise of a much healthier and more hopeful future. Within our safe and supportive healing environment, our comprehensive residential treatment services can provide you with the medical, psychological, and therapeutic support that you need to regain control over your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
In keeping with our promise to devise unique and individualized treatment, your plan of care may include the following elements:
Medication management: Depending upon the specific nature of the disorders that you are dealing with, you may benefit from having certain prescription medications incorporated into your treatment plan. Our medication management services include weekly meetings with a psychiatrist and ongoing medication management provided by registered nurses.
Individual therapy: During residential treatment, you will participate in three individual therapy sessions each week with your primary therapist. These individual sessions provide a valuable opportunity for you to process any successes or setbacks that you have experienced, as well as address any questions or concerns that you have about your treatment.
Group therapy: Group therapy is one of the fundamental forms of treatment at Center for Hope. Participating in groups will allow you to share your insights, learn from the experiences of others, and practice the new skills that will support long-term recovery. During residential treatment, you will participate in two to three group therapy sessions every day, Monday to Friday. Group therapy sessions, which are led by therapists and social workers, may focus on the following topics:
- Mindful eating
- Body image
- Anxiety management
- Co-occurring disorders
- Music and art appreciation
- Life skills
- Family systems
- Recovery maintenance
- Process group
Experiential therapies: Experiential therapy offers you the opportunity to engage in activity-oriented experiences that may incorporate recreation or active education into the therapeutic process. Every week that you are in residential treatment at Center for Hope, you will have several opportunities to participate in experiential therapies such as the following:
- Yoga (offered one to two times per week)
- Creative expressions
- Cooking class
- Music appreciation
- Equine therapy (offered once each week)
At Center for Hope, we understand that residential care is just one step in the long-term process of recovering from an eating disorder and trauma. To ensure that you are able to successfully maintain and build upon the progress that you make with us, we begin planning for your life after discharge the day that you start treatment.
Depending upon your specific objectives, as well as the progress that you make during treatment, discharge planning may include a range of aftercare options, including step-down treatment, such as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an intensive outpatient program (IOP), or referrals to community-based support services. To ensure that you have the support you need to make a healthy and productive transition, our staff aftercare coordinator will follow up with you at regular intervals for six months following completion of residential treatment.
At Center for Hope of the Sierras, we respect the courage that it takes to enter treatment for an eating disorder and trauma, we welcome each person chooses to heal with us, and we pledge to remain true to our mission of providing a nurturing and supportive environment where each client is treated with the utmost dignity and compassion.
To learn more about Center for Hope of the Sierras, please feel free to contact us at your convenience. We look forward to answering all of your questions and helping you determine if our program is the perfect place for you.