Comorbidity among eating disorders, traumatic events, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reported in several studies. The main objectives of this study were to describe the nature of traumatic events experienced and to explore the relationship between PTSD and anorexia nervosa (AN) in a sample of women.
Eight hundred twenty-four participants from the National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa Collaborative Study were assessed for eating disorders, PTSD, and personality characteristics.
From a final sample of 753 women with AN, 13.7% (n = 103) met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, criteria for PTSD. The sample mean age was 29.5 (standard deviation = 11.1) years. In pairwise comparisons across AN subtypes, the odds of having a PTSD diagnosis were significantly lower in individuals with restricting AN than individuals with purging AN without binge eating (odds ratio = 0.49, 95% confidence interval = 0.30-0.80). Most participants with PTSD reported the first traumatic event before the onset of AN (64.1%, n = 66). The most common traumatic events reported by those with a PTSD diagnosis were sexually related traumas during childhood (40.8%) and during adulthood (35.0%).
AN and PTSD do co-occur, and traumatic events tend to occur before the onset of AN. Clinically, these results underscore the importance of assessing trauma history and PTSD in individuals with AN and raise the question of whether specific modifications or augmentations to standard treatment for AN should be considered in a subgroup to address PTSD-related psychopathology.
AN = anorexia nervosa;
ANBN = lifetime diagnosis of both anorexia and bulimia nervosa;
BAN = anorexia nervosa with binge, with or without purging;
BN = bulimia nervosa;
BMI = body mass index;
DSM-IV = Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition;
HPA = hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal;
PAN = purging anorexia nervosa without binge eating;
PTSD = posttraumatic stress disorder;
RAN = restricting anorexia nervosa;
Y-BOCS = Yale-Brown Obsessive Compulsive Scale;
YBC-EDS = Yale-Brown-Cornell Eating Disorder Scale.