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Publication! Childhood Sexual Abuse, Eating Disorders, Addictions, and Obesity


Examining Childhood Sexual Abuse

Publications in leading peer-reviewed journals are difficult to produce. If it is original data, it must be produced with great statistical rigor and make an unprecedented contribution. If it is a review article, it must propose something that has not yet been proposed. This review article by David Wiss, Timothy Brewerton and Janet Tomiyama offers a new perspective on the link between childhood sexual abuse and obesity! It was recently published in the prestigious journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

This review uses a biopsychosocial perspective to better understand the pathways from childhood sexual abuse to eating disorders, food addiction and substance abuse, and lifelong obesity. Guided by an updated conceptual model, this review describes how the biological entrenchment of childhood sexual abuse triggers a cascade of interrelated conditions that often result in unsuccessful attempts to suppress weight and, eventually, obesity.

This model challenges the long-held theory of “protective measures” that those exposed to sexual abuse will deliberately or unconsciously gain weight in an attempt to prevent future victimization. A more complete understanding of the mechanisms by which sexual abuse in childhood takes root biologically can help clinicians and survivors normalize and / or treat eating disorders and weight-related outcomes, as well as to identify intervention strategies.

Abstract

In addition to its immediate negative consequences, childhood sexual abuse is associated with adverse mental and physical health consequences throughout life. This review uses a biopsychosocial perspective to better understand the pathways from childhood sexual abuse to eating disorders, food addiction and substance abuse, and lifelong obesity. Guided by an updated conceptual model, this review describes how the biological entrenchment of childhood sexual abuse triggers a cascade of interrelated conditions that often result in unsuccessful attempts to suppress weight and, eventually, obesity. Such biological integration involves pathways such as inflammation, allostatic load, reward sensitivity, activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, epigenetics, and structural and functional changes in the brain. These pathways are in turn theorized to lead to food addiction, substance use disorders, and eating disorders, each with potential pathways to obesity over time. Predisposing factors for childhood sexual abuse, including gender, culture and age, are discussed. This model challenges the long-held theory of “protective measures” that those exposed to sexual abuse will deliberately or unconsciously gain weight in an attempt to prevent future victimization. A more complete understanding of the mechanisms by which sexual abuse in childhood takes root biologically can help clinicians and survivors normalize and / or treat eating disorders and weight-related outcomes, as well as to identify intervention strategies.

David A. Wiss

David Wiss, MS, RDN is the founder of Nutrition in Recovery, which specializes in: addictions, eating disorders, mental health, body image and general well-being. Mr. Wiss works closely with individuals to help them revolutionize their relationship with food and has shared his expertise with numerous eating disorder and addiction treatment facilities in the greater Los Angeles area. David is a nationally recognized expert in addiction nutrition and is currently working on his PhD. in Public Health from UCLA.

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