Childhood trauma and a fear of eating in front of others.

Postby mindpecker » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:57 am

I decided to post this in the eating disorder section as I think my questions fits in here, however I realise the underlying issues are far deeper.

This is about a girl I met recently on a forum for adult children of alcoholic parents. We've been writing to each other for a while and I would be extremely grateful if some of you gave me your opinion/feedback and any comments about what I'm going to tell you about her. I feel this would help me to understand her better and offer her some support by saying the right things rather then sounding patronising etc.

Her life is one of very traumatic and abusive childhood spent in an eastern european country. She was abandoned as a newborn and ended up in a children's home. At the age of two she was adopted and she says that her adopted mother told her that even at the time she was very withdrawn, hardly talking, rocking at times and generally it took a long time to get close to her. It seems that some time went past, quite happy for her, she talks fondly of her mum from that time, describes it as the "happiest time of her life". At some point her adopted dad went abroad to work but return as an alcoholic and began abusing both her and her mother. She talks about physical and psychological abuse and remembering scenes such as her "dad" throwing her pet dog out of a window (I understand from a considerable height).

Things only got worse from there as at some point her mother decided to go to work abroad herself and she left her (!) with the guy. The man continued to drink and abuse the girl, both physically and sexually. I'm not sure how long this went on but she is in her twenties now.

Her current situation is that she lives in a homeless hostel, had several suicide attempts and admissions in a psychiatric hospital. She attended some therapy before but not at the moment. There is also this part of her life to do with eating. She told me she cannot eat in front of other people and as the result she eats hardly anything. Since she lives in a homeless hostel all of her food comes from a communal canteen and they're not allowed to take it to their rooms. Unless she smuggles some out or someone does it for her she eats hardly anything. She cannot sleep and complains of feeling cold most of the time.

I asked her about her issues around food and she says it's because when she was little her adopted dad would buy food for himself and if she ate anything unless he gave it to her (which doesn't sound like very often) he would severely beat her with a belt. Also her mother used to lock the fridge with a chain and a padlock. So while eating (even alone) she gets flashbacks and anxiety attacks.

Her mother lives in the same city as her and seems to behave as if she was in denial about the past, often rejecting the girl emotionally or even talking to her in a demeaning way. She also refuses to participate in any form of family counselling ever suggested by professionals who treated the girl.

So you can see there is a lot of trauma there. I think she suffers from PTSD. She is quite open with me about her issues but at times I feel out of my depth. Like I said I don't want to sound patronising as we communicate only by mail and messenger.

Is there a name for this form of eating disorder? Or is it just a symptom of PTSD? Any thoughts would be hugely appreciated.

I hope things will change for the better for her as she just told me she got a job :) so maybe she will be in a position to rent a flat/room and have more privacy to eat and deal with this in her own time.

Thanks in advance for any comments.

Best wishes to all.
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Postby jurplesman » Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:07 am

The first thing I noticed is that her parents were alcoholic, which could mean that she may have a faulty gene predisposing her to mood disorders. But fortunately, faulty genes can be beaten. I must say this is a heart-rending story and I do hope we can help her.
The first thing i would advise her is that she need to live in the here-and-now and that whatever her emotional problems are, to always consider they occur in the here-and-now. Whatever damage has been caused in the past cannot be corrected, in the here-and-now.
Fortunately, most mood disorders can be addressed by nutritional means. Her emotional upheavals are usually caused by stress hormones occurring in the here-and-now, and usually due to an inner disease, that can be treated.
Most people who have suffered in he past recover from their traumas, simply because the body starts producing feel-good neurotransmitters after a period of time away from the trauma causing environment.
But this does not always happen to some people who having experienced trauma in the past continue to produce stress hormones. regardless of what is going on in the environment.
Now, stress hormones function to supply biological energy to the brain, if for some reason the brain is deprived of a steady supply of glucose. Glucose is needed, for it is transformed into biological energy called adenosinetriphosphate (ATP). This energy is essential in the manufacture of feel-good neurotransmitters such as the conversion of tryptophan (from food) into serotonin (our happy hormone).
Without that energy source we cannot be happy, for the brain will be deprived of energy and it will trigger the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.

There are many silent diseases that can cause brain energy starvation, but the most common disease is hypoglycemia.

This is just a well, because hypoglycemia can be treated without recourse to drugs and even without psychotherapy, by simply adopting the the hypoglycemic diet.

Her inability to relax in front of people may stem from a low self-ersteem, a natural by-product of depression and not its cause. Going on a hypoglycemic diet will cause her to be able to produce relaxing feel-good biochemicals and she will start to feel better. The more she reads about hypoglycemia and all its ramifications, the more she will be able to empower herself to get better,

Once she starts to feel better and stays away from the toxic environment of the past I strongly advise her to study:

Summary off Self-help psychotherapy.

It shows how to get rid of a negative self-image, how to become more assertive, how to communicate with people and start relationships and develop her personal values system and share these with loved ones.

She could also study:

Anxiety and the Autonomic Nervous System.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder:a Disease of Body and Mind.

which may explain why she has problem eating in front of people. it is all due to adrenaline.
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