Traumatic events and post-traumatic symptoms in anorexia nervosa

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Paola Longo, Antonella Bertorello, Matteo Panero, Giovanni Abbate-Daga & Enrica Marzola

Background:  Traumatic Events (TEs) are often seen as risk factors not only for the development of eating disorders (EDs) but also for their impact on the severity of clinical presentation and psychiatric comorbidities.
Objective:  This study aimed to assess the prevalence and time of occurrence of TEs in the two subtypes of anorexia nervosa (AN; restricting [RAN] and binge-purging [BPAN]) and to investigate differences in TEs (number, type, frequency) as well as clusters of post-traumatic symptoms and emotional dysregulation between the two groups.
Method:  Seventy-seven hospitalised women were recruited and divided into two subgroups according to their AN subtype. Participants completed the following self-reported measures: Eating Disorder Inventory-2 (EDI-2), Life Events Checklist (LEC), Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R) and the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS).
Results:  A higher occurrence of TEs was found in patients with BPAN than in those with RAN. In particular, there were significantly more women in the BPAN group than in the RAN group who had been sexually assaulted. Exposure to TEs happened before the onset of illness in most patients, regardless of the AN subtype. Finally, the BPAN group had significantly higher scores in terms of post-traumatic symptoms and emotional dysregulation than RAN patients.
Conclusions:  Patients with BPAN showed a higher occurrence of TEs, post-traumatic symptom clusters, and emotional dysregulation than those with RAN. These findings are of interest as treatments could benefit from trauma-informed interventions for those affected by AN, and particularly for those with the binge-purging subtype.

Keywords: traumatic events; eating disorders; anorexia nervosa; post-traumatic symptoms; emotion dysregulation

Received 28 Feb 2019, Accepted 03 Oct 2019, Published online: 01 Nov 2019

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