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International Journal of ED
Anorexia Nervosa
Bulimia Nervosa
Atypical Anorexia Nervosa
Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and trauma-informed care in higher levels of care for eating disorders

International Journal of Eating Disorders
By Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS


The purpose of the current study was to examine the prevalence and trajectory of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms among patients with eating disorders (EDs) in higher level of ED care with trauma-informed components, but without a formal evidence-based trauma intervention.


Participants were 613 adults diagnosed with EDs receiving treatment at inpatient, residential, or partial hospitalization levels of care. Participants completed the PTSD Checklist-5 (PCL-5) at admission and discharge.


Over half of patients scored above the cutoff of 33 on the PCL-5 at admission, suggestive of PTSD symptoms characteristic of a formal PTSD diagnosis. The average PCL-5 score significantly decreased for every ED diagnostic category, and there was a significant reduction in the proportion of patients above the PCL-5 cutoff score at discharge. PCL-5 subscales measuring PTSD criteria B (intrusions) and C (avoidance) improved with modest effect sizes, whereas PCL-5 subscales D (negative alterations in cognitions and mood) and E (alterations in arousal and reactivity) improved with larger effect sizes.


PTSD symptoms are prevalent among patients with EDs seeking higher levels of care. Despite not offering evidence-based trauma-specific interventions, PTSD symptoms decreased over the course of treatment. However, improvements cannot definitely be attributed to trauma-informed care.

Written by

Philip S. Mehler, MD, FACP, FAED, CEDS

Dr. Philip S. Mehler began his career at Denver Health more than 35 years ago and was formerly its Chief of Internal Medicine and then Denver Health’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO) until he was promoted…

ACUTE Earns Prestigious Center of Excellence Designation from Anthem
In 2018, the ACUTE Center for Eating Disorders & Severe Malnutrition at Denver Health was honored by Anthem Health as a Center of Excellence for Medical Treatment of Severe and Extreme Eating Disorders. ACUTE is the first medical unit ever to achieve this designation in the field of eating disorders. It comes after a rigorous review process.

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