Sexual abuse and eating disorders: a review

Int J Eat Disord. 1993 Jan;13(1):1-11. doi: 10.1002/1098-108x(199301)13:1<1::aid-eat2260130102>;2-p.


Studies investigating a possible relationship between sexual abuse and eating disorders have reported highly discrepant results. Some variability can be accounted for by methodological issues including diagnostic criteria, study design, and assessment techniques. The heterogeneity of an eating disordered population, especially regarding the comorbidity of eating pathology and personality disorder, is also a factor. Overall results suggest that around 30% of eating disordered patients have been sexually abused in childhood, a figure that is relatively comparable to rates found in normal populations. For some patients there may be a direct link between sexual trauma and eating pathology, but in general sexual abuse is best considered a risk factor in a biopsychosocial etiological model of eating disorders. Complex associations between trauma, self-regulatory deficits, and psychopathology require further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Bulimia / diagnosis
  • Bulimia / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / complications
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Personality Development*
  • Research