The negative impact of COVID-19 pandemic on people with Eating Disorders (EDs) has been documented. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether a history of traumatic experiences during childhood or adolescence was associated with a higher degree of psychopathological worsening during COVID-19 related lockdown and in the following re-opening period in this group of people. People with EDs undergoing a specialist ED treatment in different Italian services before the spreading of COVID-19 pandemic (n = 312) filled in an online survey to retrospectively evaluate ED specific and general psychopathology changes after COVID-19 quarantine. Based on the presence of self-reported traumatic experiences, the participants were split into three groups: patients with EDs and no traumatic experiences, patients with EDs and childhood traumatic experiences, patients with EDs and adolescent traumatic experiences. Both people with or without early traumatic experiences reported retrospectively a worsening of general and ED-specific psychopathology during the COVID 19-induced lockdown and in the following re-opening period. Compared to ED participants without early traumatic experiences, those with a self-reported history of early traumatic experiences reported heightened anxious and post-traumatic stress symptoms, ineffectiveness, body dissatisfaction, and purging behaviors. These differences were seen before COVID-19 related restrictions as well as during the lockdown period and after the easing of COVID-19 related restrictions. In line with the “maltreated ecophenotype” theory, these results may suggest a clinical vulnerability of maltreated people with EDs leading to a greater severity in both general and ED-specific symptomatology experienced during the exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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