Traumatized overeaters have lived through events which made them afraid they were going to die. For example, people may eat as a way to cope with having been physically or sexually abused or abandoned at an early age. Traumatized eating can look like binging when someone is reminded of their abuse, or when they are beginning to come out of their old patterns which kept them safe as a child.
Traumatized eating is about soothing, calming, and creating safety. Often those who were traumatized find themselves suffering from extreme emotions: sadness, terror, rage, or shame. Eating, particularly foods high in carbohydrates and fat, calms the nervous system and allows them to settle down and relax. Food can become a source of safety for those who find little safety elsewhere in their lives. A full stomach may become a sign that “everything will be all right.”
What can be done about traumatized eating?
- Learning to identify triggers which push your body into trauma mode.
- Learning to self-talk and self-sooth when you have become triggered.
- Learning to move your nervous system from “fight or flight” into “rest and digest.”
- Creating a sense of safety in your life so that you can begin to develop trust that everything will be okay.
- Creating trusting relationships you can rely on where you are treated with respect.