Navigating Recovery: The Impact of PTSD on Eating Disorder Recovery

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Nandika Dhingra

June is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) awareness month, and I believe it is important to consider the effect PTSD can have on recovery from an eating disorder. 

To begin with, battling both an eating disorder and trauma simultaneously is definitely not a simple task for those in recovery. In my experience, overcoming trauma and recovering from an eating disorder took tremendous effort and was both mentally and physically exerting. If I were to describe it, tackling both PTSD and my eating disorder required focusing on completely different things which were also related to one another. Sometimes I would have to completely focus on the nutritional aspect of recovery, while other times I would have to focus entirely on the mental and emotional aspect; both of these are equally important but in order to fully overcome them, I had to focus on one at a time. 

Furthermore, something which I was often told during my recovery was to “take it one day at a time.” Back then, I often ignored this statement from individuals who were part of my support system. However, after reflecting on my past experiences, I believe this is the most valuable piece of advice I was given in my recovery. Taking recovery “one day at a time” may prove to be helpful for those recovering from PTSD and an eating disorder; it is important to be patient with yourself and simply trust the process. Often, trusting the process is a difficult thing to do–it is easy to get preoccupied with the “what ifs” which then hinders the overall recovery process. 

In order to persevere through recovery, it is important to have a support system of trusted individuals. Feeling alone during recovery from an eating disorder and trauma can make the process much more difficult, so it is important to establish a network of individuals who you can rely on. This can consist of your family and friends, or a healthcare provider such as a therapist, dietitian, or psychiatrist. For example, I often consulted my parents, friend, and therapist when conflicted; these people were my support system. Your support system may be different, because we all have different individuals in our lives who offer us support. 

As I close this post, if you are currently in recovery from PTSD and an eating disorder, I want you to know that you are doing your best. Take the process one day at a time, and be patient with yourself; taking the first step toward recovery is commendable as it is. 

Nandika Dhingra is a full-time student from Edison, New Jersey. She has recovered from anorexia and bulimia nervosa and hopes to help those who are struggling from an eating disorder. From her experience, she knows what it feels like to be alone and helpless, and does not want others to experience what she did. She hopes to inspire others to recover through sharing her experience, and make a difference in a person’s life.