Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are more common in people who experience trauma – including loss of a loved one, relationship problems, abuse and sexual assault, and even a difficult move to a new home or school, according to new research.
The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, identified a handful of key difficult experiences than can trigger eating disorders for people who don’t receive family or other support that helps them cope.
For the study, researchers from the University of Minnesota interviewed 26 women and one man -- aged from 17 to 64 -- receiving treatment for long-term eating disorders. Nine had anorexia nervosa, three had bulimia nervosa, one had both and the other 14 had eating disorders.
"The aim of our study was to find out if there was any link between transitional events in family life and the onset of eating disorders," said lead researcher Dr. Jerica M Berge. "Eating disorders are an important public health issue and knowing what causes them can help us to develop more effective treatment and support."
Some key factors often preceded eating disorders: moving to a new school, starting college, relationship changes, death of a family member, home and job transitions, job changes, illness/hospitalization, physical or sexual abuse or assault (including incest).
"We hope that our findings will be of interest to parents as well as health professionals as they underline the need for greater awareness and support at times of change and stress," Berge said.