Background: Multiple impulsive behaviours are common in the eating disorders, and multi-impulsive patients appear to do more poorly in treatment. However, comparatively little is known about the origins of multi-impulsivity in such cases. This study addresses the links between reported childhood trauma and multi-impulsivity in the eating disorders, examining whether specific types of trauma are predictive of specific impulsive behaviours in this population.
Method: The sample consisted of 102 individuals who met strict criteria for an eating disorder, and who were interviewed regarding trauma history and comorbid impulsive behaviours.
Results: Any reported history of childhood trauma was associated with a higher number of impulsive behaviours and with the presence of multi-impulsivity. Childhood sexual abuse was particularly important, and was associated with self-cutting, alcohol abuse, and substance abuse (amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis and 'other substances', including ketamine and benzodiazepines).
Discussion: These findings indicate the importance of considering the psychological consequences of trauma during both assessment and treatment of the eating disorders. In particular, eating-disordered women who report a history of childhood sexual abuse should be examined for a pattern of comorbid impulsive behaviours.