Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and complex PTSD in eating disorder treatment-seekers: Prevalence and associations with symptom severity

Sinead Day, Phillipa Hay, Christopher Basten, Susan Byrne, Amanda Dearden, Mandy Goldstein, Amy Hannigan, Gabriella Heruc, Catherine Houlihan, Marion Roberts, W. Kathy Tannous, Chris Thornton, Natalie Valentine, Deborah Mitchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although childhood trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been well-researched in eating disorder epidemiology, prevalence rates are unavailable for complex PTSD (CPTSD). Under recently introduced ICD-11 criteria, individuals with CPTSD have both PTSD symptoms and additional disturbances in self-organization (DSO). Using ICD-11 criteria, this study aimed to determine the prevalence of PTSD and DSO symptoms, diagnostic rates of PTSD and CPTSD, and childhood trauma exposure in eating disorder treatment-seekers. Participants (N = 217) were individuals attending residential, partial hospitalization, and outpatient services who completed measures of eating disorder– and trauma-related symptoms and childhood adverse experiences. One third of participants reported PTSD symptoms, and over half reported DSO symptoms, with probable ICD-11 diagnostic rates of 3.8% for PTSD and 28.4% for CPTSD. CPTSD was significantly more prevalent than PTSD and more common in higher levels of care. Both PTSD and DSO symptom severity were positively correlated with eating disorder symptoms and impairment, rs =.285–.642. DSO symptom severity was a significant and unique explanatory factor of eating disorder severity and impairment. The findings highlight the prevalence of CPTSD in eating disorder populations and the association between DSO symptoms and eating psychopathology independent of PTSD symptoms. Implications are discussed for adjunct treatment approaches for individuals with comorbid eating disorders and PTSD or CPTSD.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Apr 2024


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