Do you hate your body? Are you upset with what it feels, how it reacts and how it moves? This blog is about trauma and eating disorders, and one aspect in how they are linked together. You see, trauma remains stuck in the body in the form of re-experiencing feelings and sensations that do not have actual memories tied to them. These feelings and sensations are recalled by your body, sometimes by mundane triggers which may appear to have nothing to do with what your trauma was. So a smell, a colour or image, a song or a person can bring about a sense of fear, dread, sadness, even a real sense of being endangered, as if the trauma was taking place again. Often, it can feel as if these sensations and feelings do not have a place in the present moment, and so it becomes easy to hate the body, and even yourself, when your body reacts by wanting to run, or curl up and hide or fight for no reason at all; all protective responses. One of the experts on this topic is Peter A. Levine PhD, founder of one of the somatic approaches to healing trauma. Here is a link to an interview with Peter, conducted by Shaun Hibbs from Above and Beyond Trauma, who was lovely enough to share this with me so I may pass it on to you. This is a great resource if you would like to better understand how trauma has affected your body.
So how is trauma linked to eating disorders? This topic is lengthy and complicated, and not enough is said about it, so I am making it my mission to educate people. One way is that ED symptoms help people to remove themselves from re-experiencing the trauma stuck in their bodies. ED allows for a disconnection between the person and the feelings and sensations hidden in the body, through numbing, dissociating, and even physical pain, which can be a distraction from negative feelings or a way to feel pain without the emotional aspect. Feelings and emotions stuck in the body can feel overwhelming and uncontrollable, and ED becomes a way to rid the body of, or to quiet these sensations. I truly believe that part and parcel of overcoming an eating disorder is working with the body, (this can include dancing and yoga) re-building the relationship with the body and using somatic work to heal trauma. I have used it in my practice and am grateful for its richness and the grounding and change it affords people.
I hope you have found something helpful or new here and I hope you will get curious about how a somatic approach can be of help to you throughout your journey. Your body doesn’t hate you. It is just asking for compassion, soothing and protection.
Please note that the information contained here is not meant to serve as a substitution for psychotherapy, a mental health assessment or the advice of your own personal clinician or doctor. In the event of an emergency, please visit your local emergency department at a hospital closet to you or call 911.