top of page

The Connection Between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and Binge Eating | Balance

Childhood trauma is a topic that has gained significant attention in recent years, particularly in relation to its impact on mental health.

One area of interest is the connection between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and eating disorders, specifically binge eating disorder.

This article explores the research on ACEs and their association with binge eating, highlighting the importance of understanding and addressing childhood trauma in the treatment and prevention of eating disorders.

Comforting one another

Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse childhood experiences refer to traumatic events or circumstances that occur during childhood and have the potential to cause physical and emotional harm.

These experiences include physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, and exposure to violence or substance abuse.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) conducted by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown a strong link between ACEs and negative health outcomes later in life.

Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences

The ACE Study revealed that ACEs are startlingly common, with 67% of individuals reporting at least one ACE. Furthermore, 40% of people have experienced two or more ACEs, and 20% have reported four or more ACEs. It is important to note that ACEs occur across all socioeconomic backgrounds, challenging the assumption that they are limited to underprivileged populations.

Health Impact of Childhood Trauma

The long-term health consequences of ACEs are significant. Research has shown that individuals who have experienced childhood trauma are more likely to develop chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.

These health conditions are among the leading causes of death and disability in the Western world. Additionally, ACEs are strongly associated with high-risk health behaviors in adulthood, including smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, and severe obesity.

Behavioral Impact of Childhood Trauma

The behavioral effects of ACEs are equally concerning. Studies have found that individuals with a higher ACE score are at an increased risk of mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.

Binge eating disorder, in particular, has been linked to ACEs. It is believed that binge eating may serve as a coping mechanism for the anxiety, fear, anger, or depression resulting from childhood trauma.

The Link Between ACEs and Binge Eating Disorder

Research has consistently shown a connection between ACEs and binge eating disorder. A history of sexual abuse, in particular, has been found to be common among individuals with disordered eating behaviors.

Women in larger bodies are also more likely to report a history of childhood physical or sexual abuse. ACEs, especially sexual trauma, are associated with a higher prevalence of problematic eating and eating disorders.

Understanding the Mechanism

The precise mechanism through which ACEs contribute to the development of binge eating disorder is not yet fully understood.

However, it is theorized that the chronic stress and dysregulation caused by childhood trauma alter the brain's reward system and increase susceptibility to emotional dysregulation. Binge eating may provide temporary relief from distressing emotions, reinforcing the behavior as a coping mechanism.

Treatment Implications

Recognizing the relationship between ACEs and binge eating disorder is crucial for effective treatment. Trauma-informed care, which acknowledges and addresses the impact of childhood trauma, is essential in supporting individuals with eating disorders.

Therapeutic approaches that incorporate trauma-focused interventions, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), can be effective in helping individuals heal from both the trauma and the eating disorder.

Prevention and Early Intervention

Preventing the development of binge eating disorder and other eating disorders requires a comprehensive approach that includes early identification and intervention for individuals who have experienced ACEs.

Educating healthcare professionals and the public about the link between childhood trauma and eating disorders is crucial. Implementing trauma-informed practices in schools, healthcare settings, and community programs can help create a supportive environment for individuals at risk.

Empowering Resilience and Recovery

While the impact of ACEs on mental health and eating disorders is significant, it is essential to recognize that resilience is possible. With appropriate support and interventions, individuals can overcome the effects of childhood trauma and recover from binge eating disorder.

Building resilience through therapy, support groups, and self-care practices can empower individuals to develop healthier coping mechanisms and improve their overall well-being.


The connection between adverse childhood experiences and binge eating disorder highlights the importance of addressing childhood trauma in the prevention and treatment of eating disorders.

Recognizing the prevalence and impact of ACEs, as well as implementing trauma-informed care, can help individuals on their journey to recovery.

By understanding the link between childhood trauma and binge eating, we can provide empathetic support and effective interventions to promote healing and resilience. Together, we can work towards a future where individuals can overcome the effects of childhood trauma and live healthier, happier lives.


bottom of page