RESEARCH PAPER
Trauma in relation to psychological characteristics in women with eating disorders
 
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Institute of Applied Psychology, Jagiellonian University of Cracow, Poland
Submission date: 2016-09-15
Final revision date: 2017-01-09
Acceptance date: 2017-01-30
Online publication date: 2017-05-12
Publication date: 2017-12-01
 
Current Issues in Personality Psychology 2017;5(4):244–259
 
KEYWORDS
TOPICS
ABSTRACT
Background
The aim of the article was to present the results of the author’s own study that sought relationships between having experienced psychological trauma and the psychological characteristics of people with eating disorders. The basic research question was the following: To what degree are the traumatic events experienced by females with various types of eating disorders related to these females’ psychological characteristics?

Participants and procedure
The sample comprised 120 females with eating disorders: 30 females aged between 20 and 26 diagnosed with bulimia nervosa, 31 females diagnosed with binge-eating disorder and 59 females aged between 20 and 26 diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. The research was carried out in the years 2007-2012 in outpatient clinics treating neuroses and eating disorders and mental health outpatient clinics in Poland. The study employed a clinical and psychometric (i.e., questionnaires for measuring psychological characteristics) approach.

Results
Statistical analysis confirmed the existence of significant differences between the females with eating disorders who have experienced relational trauma(s) in their lives (particularly in their childhood and adolescence) and those who did not reveal such experience. The females with anorexia and bulimia who have also experienced psychological, physical or sexual violence revealed a significantly different, higher level of bulimic thinking and tendencies for excessively uncontrolled, impulsive behaviors towards food and nutrition (i.e., vomit-provoking and other forms of body purgation, e.g. using purgative drugs and others) than did females with no relational trauma experience.

Conclusions
The frequency of relational trauma occurrence was significantly higher for females with bulimia and bulimic anorexia. For females with restrictive anorexia and binge-eating disorder, no significantly frequent occurrence of trauma was observed.
Diagnosing the occurrence of relational trauma in patients’ histories is a key element that should be involved in the process of psychotherapy for people with eating disorders.
 
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