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618 | Trauma-based Dissociation and Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) Dysregulation in Eating-disordered Populations

Personality Disorders, Challenging Issues, and Complex Cases, Saturday 9/16 8:45 – 10:00 AM, Workshop Tracks


Christopher Charleton, M.S.W.



Approved For CE

Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers

Approved For CME/CEU

Medical Doctors, Osteopathic Doctors, Physicians Assistants, Midwives, Nurses and Nurse Practitioners




Trauma is associated with greater comorbidity in eating-disordered populations. A significant percentage of eating-disordered clients manifest extreme dissociative and personality-disordered symptoms related to sex abuse. These symptoms impede therapeutic gain and lead to high recidivism rates. Eating disorder treatment frequently fails to detect and address complicated hyper/hypoarousal patterns relating to severe unresolved autonomic nervous system (ANS) distress from sexual abuse. This workshop will present guidelines for identifying and resolving dissociative and ANS complications in treating anorexic and bulimic populations suffering from sexual abuse. Trauma-induced personality fragmentation associated with sexual abuse is often overlooked in treating anorexics and bulimics. Classic symptom management frequently obscures sophisticated primary and structural dissociative responses, complicating treatment. Such dissociative responses facilitate the entrenchment of anorexic and bulimic behaviors. A treatment approach will be proposed to emphasize a reduction in ANS distress and personality reintegration. The complex interplay between sexual abuse and survival-based dissociation, autonomic dysregulation, and insecure attachment schema utilized by anorexics and bulimics will be examined.

Learning Objectives

1. Identify four eating disorder symptoms that result from the primary and structural dissociative processes associated with sexual abuse
2. Differentiate the entrenched and/or oscillating hyper/hypoarousal patterns associated with trauma-induced ANS distress that drive eating disorder symptoms
3. Formulate four effective strategies for reducing hyper/hypoarousal and dissociative patterns associated with sexual abuse that hinder therapeutic gains in eating disorder treatment
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