National Eating Disorders Association
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Trauma

Today is World Mental Health Day, an annual awareness and education initiative spearheaded by the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH). This year’s campaign highlights the importance of increased mental health awareness, services, and care for young people in a changing world.

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Exposure to multiple traumas, particularly in childhood, has been proposed to result in a complex of symptoms that includes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as a constrained, but variable, group of symptoms that highlight self-regulatory disturbances (e.g. depression, anxiety, dissociation). Van der Kolk and colleagues have researched these symptoms extensively, and correspondingly suggested the diagnosis of Complex PTSD for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (DSM-5); unfortunately, it was left out of the manual due to politics.

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In honor of April’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAM), as a result of the dedicated efforts of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), I wanted to share my personal experience of the connection between sexual assault, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Anorexia Nervosa (AN), and recovery. 

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Here at NEDA, we find it vital to recognize the unique experiences of individuals from different communities who are affected by eating disorders and sexual assault. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we've compiled a list of helpful resources, support posts, and self-care tips catered to those who have been affected and/or have loved ones who are survivors. 

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The #MeToo movement—originally started by social activist Tarana Burke in the 1990s—was the story of 2017. Fueled by a moment in which women were coming forward to tell their stories of assault and abuse by men in power—and seeing those same men lose decades-long careers as a result—a door opened, seemingly overnight, for people to tell their own stories of assault and harassment. Finally, a light was shining on the pervasiveness of this issue.  

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The year 2017 has been an uphill battle for women, and a year of liberation. Numerous people have asked me how I feel about the #MeToo movement being a person who could say, "me too." In 2015, I released my first book, CONTROLLED, a memoir which details my own sexual assault and its aftermath. Through my book I outline what occurred after my assault, a legal case I never wanted and a battle against anorexia to cope with PTSD. 

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This morning, I checked my phone to find a flurry of excited Facebook posts about TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year, the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault. The magazine featured a group of women and men crucial to the movement, whom it dubbed “The Silence Breakers.” 

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This past Saturday, the women of SNL united for “Welcome to Hell,” a catchy, candy-colored music video that serves to remind everyone that sexual harassment and abusive behavior toward women has been going on for a very, very, very, long time.

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Exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor involving direct personal experience of an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to one’s physical integrity is included in the description of the diagnosis for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Sexually traumatic events for children may include developmentally inappropriate sexual experiences without threat of actual violence or injury. Physical and/or sexual abuse, incest, and rape are all included in the events hailing the diagnosis of PTSD, according to the DSM-IV. 

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I am enraged, disappointed, and sad. But mostly, I am tired. 

Content note: descriptions of sexual violence

I’m tired of the Harvey Weinsteins of the world building empires as sexual abuse allegations swirl around them as influential women like Donna Karan defend them.

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