7.1 Cutting the Ties That Bind – Trauma Recovery & Metabolic Wellness

Metabolic & Trauma Recovery -Cutting the Ties That Bind

Trauma Recovery & Metabolic Wellness

Sexual and physical assault, (as well as mental and emotional abuse, and other types of trauma) contribute to the onset of mental health disorders and the development of metabolic disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), complex PTSD, (CPTSD) and other trauma disorders are associated with elevated and even severe stress responses. Negative experiences, whether acute or chronic, can modify the HPA axis and result in dysregulated behaviors. For those suffering with PTSD (as well as anxiety & depression), mental health recovery is essential to motivating and sustaining metabolic recovery.

The Message of Violence & Abuse

Acts of violence and abuse deliver devastating messages to victims:

  • You’re not enough!
  • You’re worthless!
  • You deserve to be mistreated!
  • Your life means nothing!

For patients, there are a lot of similarities shared by PTSD, anxiety, and depressive disorders.

  • The pervasive sense that they’re not okay
  • An underlying fear that they’ll never be the same – never be happy again
  • The fear that other relationships or situations will never be the same
  • Thoughts of being bad or undesirable because of things that have happened
  • Feeling alone, lonely, sad
  • Feeling misunderstood by others
  • Afraid no one will like then if they know what’s going on (or what happened)

Effects of Trauma

Individuals with PTSD differ from those with other disorders in that, with little provocation, they may be more likely to respond with anger or aggressiveness and engage in reckless or self-destructive / self-defeating behaviors [1]. In part, this is because energy from past trauma resides within both our mind and bodies, PTSD is often characterized by a heightened sensitivity to potential threats and a decreased tolerance for stressful situations. With respect to eating behaviors, trauma disorders share many of the same cognitive and emotional triggers common to other disorders: negative effects from stress, sleep disturbances, poor food choices, poor health habits, and diminished physical activity [2].

Anne’s Story

Anne came to us nearly a year ago for help with weight loss, depression, uncontrolled binge eating, and panic disorder. In the initial intake interview it was clear that she met the criteria for PTSD. Earlier that year she and her husband had invited new acquaintances over for drinks and dinner. In the course of the evening she and her husband were drugged. In the living room of their home she was restrained by belts and repeatedly raped by several different men. Charges were filed the next day and the investigation began. Fortunately, as a couple, they managed to support one another in the aftermath. The random act of violence was prolonged by their decision to work toward prosecution. While this isn’t always the case, the memories and associated cues could not be put to rest (extinguished). Anne suffered with every one of the criteria for PTSD listed here:

  • Recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the event
  • Recurrent distressing dreams related to the event
  • Reactions or flashbacks in which it feels as though the event was recurring
  • Prolonged distress at exposure to cues that remind one of the event
  • Physiological reactions to reminder cues
  • Avoidance or suppression of memories, thoughts, or feelings related to the event
  • Avoidance of external reminders such as people or places that arouse memories, thoughts, or feelings associated with the event
  • Persistent negative beliefs or expectations about oneself or others as a result of the event
  • Distorted thoughts about the event that lead to blaming oneself
  • Persistent negative feelings such as fear, horror, guilt, and shame
  • Less interest or participation in significant activities
  • Feelings of detachment from others
  • Inability to experience positive emotions such as happiness, love, joy, or satisfaction
  • Irritable behavior and angry outbursts
  • Reckless or self-destructive behavior
  • Hypervigilance and exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Sleep disturbance – staying or falling asleep

As our work progressed, Anne woke up one morning and drew a self-portrait from a recurring nightmare. We titled the drawing the “The ties that bind.”

Ties That Bind

Earlier she had written out the word TRAUMATIZED shown here. She shared that she felt embarrassed when she realized she’d made a spelling error, but gave us permission to use the images she sent us.


Recently Anne and her husband decided they were ready to symbolically cut those ties. There are ten letters in the word above. For each letter she bound Barbie with a yarn. For ten days leading up to the anniversary of that nights, she and her husband cut one of those ties. Ties to the horror of that event and the past. All of us at team BreakThrough! and her BT group members were moved to tears and silence several times. We were awed, if not completely humbled, by her courage, the strength of her commitment to heal, and the unconditional love shared by she and her husband.

Help Your Patients Recover Their Mental Health

Your patients may not always be willing to disclose things that have happened out of shame, embarrassment, or inappropriate feelings of guilt. That said, the hallmark signs of PTSD are not easily disguised over time. Given the self-view and criteria we’ve discussed here, please know that underlying “resistance to behavioral change” there may be mental health disorders that challenge everyone’s efforts toward implementing and sustaining positive lifestyle changes.

Our online group work at BreakThrough! helps clients recover from trauma and other mental health disorders and conditions that keep patients stuck in unhealthy cycles of mood-altering. We are here to support your clients as to recover from the mental health disorders that lead to emotional eating and metabolic illnesses.

In October we begin a new cycle of BreakThrough! groups and webinars offered through zoom.

  • We do not promote or endorse any drugs, supplements or miracle cures.
  • Our work and ongoing research & development is funded entirely by the work we do with our patients.
  • Our mission is simply to deliver affordable and exceptional resources to support individuals in recovery from metabolic disorder.

For more information, scheduling, and online resources, please reach out to our team!

About the Author & Founder of BreakThrough!

Heather Hamilton PhD, LMHC, NCC, DCC

Dr. Hamilton is a women’s health psychologist who created BreakThrough! as a dedication to the memory of loved ones who left us too soon. This program draws its inspiration and hope from clinical research and program participants. It represents the gift of heartfelt stories, insights, humor, hope and encouragement!

Articles & References

  1. Sominsky, L., and Spencer, S. J. (2014). Eating behavior and stress: a pathway to obesity. Psychol. 5:434. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00434 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4026680/
  2. Pervanidou, P., Bastaki, D., Chouliaras, G., Papanikolaou, K., Laios, E., Kanaka-Gantenbein, C., & Chrousos, G. P. (2013). Circadian cortisol profiles, anxiety and depressive symptomatology, and body mass index in a clinical population of obese children. Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 16(1), 34-43. doi:10.3109/10253890.2012.689040  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22545868/
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