Why are eating disorders and trauma often in the same conversation? What are the long-term effects of unresolved trauma on a person? Are you willing to do the work to reconnect with and help yourself? In this podcast episode, Dr. Cristina Castagnini speaks about how trauma relates to eating disorders with Joelle Rabow Maletis.


Joelle is a well-known author, keynote speaker, and psychotherapist. Her expertise includes trauma, PTSD, eating disorders, military psychology, and more. Her career highlights include being a guest speaker on ABC’s 60 Minutes: Beyond the Headlines, authoring a Ted-Ed video on PTSD, and several Outstanding Achievement Awards for Top Female Executive. Joelle's passion is helping people find empowerment by discovering how to be their best (not perfect) self through authentic skills-based, self-discovery. Her goal as a psychotherapist is to provide feedback and interaction that allows clients to grow through informed, healthy, and compassionate decisions. Visit Joelle's website and connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, and LinkedIn. FREEBIE: 7 Days, 7% Happier: A Guide For Better Self Care


  • The long-term impact of trauma
  • The difference between big and little trauma
  • Starting the work

The long-term impact of trauma

“Big” and “little T” refers to the levels and severity of trauma experienced by a person. An event could create a big trauma, while little traumas can occur over many months and weeks, but they both have an accumulative negative effect on a person.
[The little Ts] didn’t register as trauma at the time but they absolutely leveled my self-esteem. I had a lot of guilt and shame around not being good enough, letting people down, and not being able to be perfect. (Joelle Rabow Maletis)
If left untreated or unattended, they could develop into more dire illnesses, both of a physical and mental nature.
At the time, the fear was, “Well, if I’m not good at this, then what does that say about me? Am I going to be unlovable?” (Joelle Rabow Maletis)
Unresolved trauma can compromise a person’s ability to believe in themselves because it undermines their self-esteem and self-confidence. Even though there are multitudes of symptoms and scenarios that lead to the development of an eating disorder, they often come from places such as these, where a person feels extremely vulnerable and tries to maintain a sense of control.

The difference between big and little trauma

Trauma comes in different names, from relational to complex. It essentially encapsulates an event that has a profoundly negative impact on a person – whether in one moment or over some time – and as a result, that person develops coping skills, maladaptive or otherwise, and they become hyperaware of it in the future.
If somebody’s saying, “This [event] shaped my worldview” or, “this is painful for me”, or “this caused behaviors that I’m not proud of” … yes, that absolutely constitutes as trauma. (Joelle Rabow Maletis)

Starting the work

There are many different forms of therapy but don’t let that stop you, instead, just focus on finding a therapist that you feel connected to and want to work with.
I didn’t understand what I needed or what would be good for me and I needed somebody I could trust, and that was the best place to start. (Joelle Rabow Maletis)
You don’t have to know what you need, or even what you want. But if you decide to pursue therapy with the desire to get better, you’re ready to start the work.



I am a licensed Psychologist and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist. While I may have over 20 years of clinical experience, what I also have is the experience of having been a patient who had an eating disorder as well. One thing that I never had during all of my treatment was someone who could look me in the eye and honestly say to me "hey, I've been there. I understand". Going through treatment for an eating disorder is one of the hardest and scariest things to do. I remember being asked to do things that scared me. Things I now know ultimately helped me to get better. But, at the time, I had serious doubts and fears about it. If even one of my providers had been able to tell me "I know it's scary, but I had to go through that part too. Here's what will probably happen...." then perhaps I would not have gone in and out of treatment so many times. My own experience ultimately led me to specialize in treating eating disorders. I wanted to be the therapist I never had; the one who "got it". I will be giving you my perspective and information as an expert and clinician who has been treating patients for over 2 decades. But don't just take my word for it...keep listening to hear the truly informative insights and knowledge guest experts have to share. I am so happy you are here!


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