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What Are The Possible Causes Of Eating Disorders

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6 Causes of Eating Disorders

If you have physical or mental health problems, you may also develop eating problems.

If you have a physical health problem, this can sometimes make you feel powerless. You may use eating or exercising as a way to feel more in control.

Or an eating problem might begin because you experience a mental health problem. Some examples include:

Your eating problem can also cause mental health problems such as those listed above. It could also be linked to feelings of low self-esteem, worthlessness or powerlessness.

“I suffer from depression and anxiety in relation to my eating disorder and it is suspected that I also have borderline personality disorder too.”

Possible Signs And Symptoms That Could Indicate Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

There are several symptoms to look for if you fear your child may be suffering from one or more eating disorders. They include distress, constant fear of becoming overweight, low self-esteem, and ongoing anxiety and depression. Also look out for strange eating habits â avoiding meals, eating in secret, monitoring the number of chews or amount of time it takes to eat something, or hiding food that hasnât been eaten.

The Role Of The Media

Our findings revealed a definite contrast between how people with and without eating disorders perceive media as a risk factor for developing an eating disorder. A large percentage of people without eating disorders identified media as a cause , but only five total participants with eating disorders did. There is a clear separation in the experience of those with eating disorders and with societys conceptualization of them . Thus, it seems that lay individuals may overemphasize the role of the media as one of the main causes of eating disorders, while those with eating disorders may not be fully aware of the potential impact of the media . Whereas specific media variables such as depiction of the thin ideal and unrealistic body standards may be correlated with eating disorders , they do not fully explain disordered behaviors. Our findings should be used to educate consumers of media on the complexity of eating disorders, and as evidence for the need to change the types of messages regarding body image ideals that are currently available in the media.

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How To Treat Eating Disorders

Due to the insidious ways in which eating disorders pervade all aspects of ones body, mind, and life, receiving the appropriate treatment is important. There are various levels of care designed to treat specific stages of eating disorder severitythese range from inpatient at a medical facility down to outpatient. Any eating disorder treatment center can assess a struggling individual to determine the appropriate level of care.

Outside of receiving treatment in general, it is also important to ensure the facility uses evidence-based practices, as these can lead to better long-term outcomes.

There are many evidence-based treatments that can support eating disorder recovery the most well-known and most commonly used is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , Dialectical Behavior Therapy , and Family-Based Treatment .

Do not be afraid to ask any questions that arise if you or a loved one are searching for the treatment that will best support recovery.

How To Create A Healthier Relationship With Food And Body Image

causes of eating disorders

Experts find that its helpful to introduce and practice new thought patterns related to your body and your self-image. These could include:

  • Appreciate all of the activities your body can do, and celebrate the amazingness of what your body does for you
  • Practice seeing yourself as a whole person by keeping a list of things that you like about yourself that dont relate to your weight or body shape
  • Remind yourself that confidence, self-acceptance, and openness make you beautiful
  • Surround yourself with positive people who value you, and others, for personality and not appearance
  • Look for, become critical of, and protest social media messages that make you feel bad about your body

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Do Stress And Trauma Lead To Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can be spurred by life transitions as well as stressful or traumatic events. Those incidentssuch as starting a new job, a sexual assault, or the death of a loved onecan lead to overwhelming and uncontrollable emotions.

Restricting food intake and regulating weight can lead people to feel a sense of control amid the chaos. And sometimes this is the only aspect of life they think they can control. In this way, a triggering event can lead to a persistent disorder.

Eating Disorders In Children: How Do You Tell If Your Child Is Merely A Picky Eater Or If There’s Something More Serious Going On

In recent years, eating disorders in children have become more common. Doctors and psychologists are now discovering a variety of explanations for these diseases, which are surfacing at disturbingly young ages.

Children with eating issues can have catastrophic consequences. They start with tiny changes in eating habits that quickly escalate into major health issues. Major health problems can develop over time and become life-threatening.

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Association Is Not Cause

There is no single cause for any eating disorder. This may shock some people who look for causes in childhood experiences or traumas. What we do know is that there are several known risk factors which make it more likely that a person will develop an eating disorder. And there are known risk factors for specific types of eating disorder. Someone with any kind of eating disorder is more likely to be sensitive, prone to anxiety, has high standards yet poor self-confidence. The reasons why these factors have come together in any one individual will be personal. Sometimes it is just an accident of birth and sometimes it is a build up of experiences.

Below are some of the known risk factors for eating disorders:

Eating disorders most commonly start off with dieting behaviour. You can read more about the effects and the psychology of dieting on our information page. Even though most eating disorders begin with a diet, not all dieters will get an eating disorder.

Risk Factors Of Body Image Struggles

Eating Disorders: Why Do People Develop Eating Disorders?

There are several external factors that can increase someones risk of developing a negative body image. Family, friends, acquaintances, media, and most prominently now, social media, can have an impact on how we perceive and feel about our body. Additionally, people in environments that are focused on appearance or those who receive negative feedback about their appearance are also at an increased risk. And, as we mentioned, people with body image struggles may also struggle with food.

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So What Causes An Eating Disorder

  • The shame of having an eating problem
  • The eating disorder is useful- this is a big issue for most people with an active eating problem. Purging can become a way to manage moods or to get through the day.
  • Perhaps I dont deserve to get help / I should be able to crack this on my own.
  • I am not ill enough or, there are people much more worse off than me.

Eating Disorders Can Be Treated

No matter what the cause, eating disorders are treatable particularly when care is provided by an experienced, specially-trained team. If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please call us at 877-825-8584 for a free, confidential assessment with a Masters-level clinician.

Eating Recovery Center is accredited through the Joint Commission. This organization seeks to enhance the lives of the persons served in healthcare settings through a consultative accreditation process emphasizing quality, value and optimal outcomes of services.

Organizations that earn the Gold Seal of Approval have met or exceeded The Joint Commissions rigorous performance standards to obtain this distinctive and internationally recognized accreditation. Learn more about this accreditation here.

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The Different Causes Of Eating Disorders

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital.

When a person gets sick, it’s natural to want to understand why. With eating disorders, which are associated with many myths and negative stereotypes, the question of causation can be especially confusing.

The culture at large commonly blames eating disorders on oversimplified explanations, such as the medias promotion of unrealistically slender models or on bad parenting. Even some health professionals buy into these explanations.

But research shows that familieslongtime scapegoatsdo not cause eating disorders, at least not in any simple, straightforward manner.

While growing up in a dysfunctional home could increase the risk for a number of psychological problems, including eating disorders, it does not condemn a child to an eating disorder or any other psychological disorder.

Are Teenagers Affected By Eating Disorders

causes of eating disorders

Teenagers can be especially susceptible to eating disorders because of hormonal changes during puberty and social pressure to look attractive or thin. These changes are normal, and your teenager may only practice unhealthy eating habits every once in a while.

But if your teenager begins to obsess over their weight, appearance, or diet, or starts consistently eating too much or too little, they may be developing an eating disorder. Abnormal weight loss or weight gain may also be a sign of an eating disorder, especially if your teenager frequently makes negative comments about their body or perceived size.

If you suspect your teenager has an eating disorder, be open and honest about your concerns. If theyre comfortable talking with you, be understanding and listen to their concerns. Also have them see a doctor, counselor, or therapist to address the social or emotional issues that may be causing their disorder.

Research also suggests that men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed and undertreated. Theyre less likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder, even when they exhibit similar symptoms as a woman.

Research suggests that many young men with eating disorders dont seek treatment because they consider them stereotypically female disorders.

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Causes Of Eating Disorders #5

Most of us are taught that our symptoms, diseases, emotional challenges, and unwanted habits are problems. In fact, they are the enemy that must be defeated because they are bad. But there is a different and more generous and holistic view of physical and emotional challenges and diseases. They are, on a deeper level, the wisdom of the body, and the wisdom of the universe speaking to us in a hidden language. Our challenges around food and health are here to ask us to grow. They are actually messengers of insight and wisdom that ask us to take a deeper look at our inner and outer worlds.

When an irritant enters an oyster, the oyster creates a beautiful pearl to surround and overcome it. This is the purpose of an eating disorder to help us reach a higher place of beauty, grace and growth when life presents us with its inevitable challenges

Warm Regards,

P.S. If you havent had a chance to check out our FREE information packed video series The Dynamic Eating Psychology Breakthrough you can sign up for it HERE. Its a great way to get a better sense of the work we do here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. If youre inspired by this work and want to learn about how you can become certified as an Eating Psychology Coach, please go HERE to learn more. And if youre interested in working on your own personal relationship with food, check out our breakthrough 8-week program designed for the public Transform Your Relationship with FoodHERE.

Three Main Types Of Eating Disorders

Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are three of the most common eating disorders.

  • Anorexia essentially is when a child refuses to eat for fear of becoming fat. This fear is often intense and irrational. Even when weight loss occurs, the child will continue to limit their eating, for fear of gaining weight back. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly one out of every 25 girls and women will have anorexia in their lifetime. Most will deny that they have an eating disorder.
  • Bulimia is a condition in which a child will binge, or overeat, then purge the food by vomiting. Laxatives may also be used in order to prevent any weight gain from occurring.
  • Binge eating is when a child binges rapidly on food, but does not purge his or her stomach contents.

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What Are The Possible Causes Of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders often co-occur with other mental disorders, most commonly mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder , and substance use disorders. Research also suggests that eating disorders can be genetic or hereditary, meaning that a person with a family history of eating disorders is at a higher risk of developing one. But there are other contributing factors we have to keep in mind.

Generally, the causes of eating disorders are genetics and mental illness. Certain people may contain genes that increase their risk of developing an eating disorder. Biological factors like chemical changes in the brain may also play a role in eating disorders. Moreover, people who engage in substance abuse often experience these chemical changes, putting them at risk of developing an eating disorder. Additionally, eating disorders often co-occur with mental disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, and substance use disorders. A person who struggles with low-self esteem, distorted self-image , perfectionism, impulsive behavior, trauma, or troubled relationships is more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, as well.

What Treatment Should I Be Offered

About Eating Disorders: What Causes Eating Disorders? | A Coping-Mechanism for Stress (& Recovery)

You can check what treatment and care is recommended for eating disorders on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website. NICE produce guidelines for how health professionals should treat certain conditions. You can download these from their website at www.nice.org.uk But the NHS does not have to follow these recommendations. They should have a good reason for not following them.

Medication should not be offered as the only treatment for any eating disorder.

Physical treatments like acupuncture, weight training and yoga should not be offered as treatment for eating disorders.

There are different types of psychological treatments for eating disorders, and you may be offered a combination of these. All of the treatments will include guided self-help and psycho-education.

Guided self-help programmeThis is a self-help programme. You will look at the thoughts, feelings and actions that you have in relation to your eating. You should also have some short support sessions to help you follow the programme.

Psycho-educationPsycho-education means that you will learn about your symptoms and how to manage them.

What is the treatment for anorexia?

When treating anorexia, a key goal is for you to reach a healthy weight. Your weight will be monitored. Doctors may share your weight with your family members or carers.

The therapy aims to help you to:

The therapy:

FPT looks at:

What is the treatment for bulimia?

What is the treatment for binge eating disorder

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What Can I Do To Manage My Symptoms

You can learn to manage your symptoms through self-care. Self-care is how you manage your daily routine, relationships and feelings. The healthcare professional who is working with you should give you advice about self-care.

The following website links have information about how you can deal with symptoms of anorexia, bulimia and BED.

  • Anorexia Self-Help

Red Flags For Eating Disorders

You may be wondering, Are there behaviors that may indicate that my loved one is struggling with an eating disorder? The answer is, yes. There are red flags to be aware of that could point to an eating disorder. However, it is important to remember that these are merely red flags and should not be used to diagnose an eating disorder.

Behaviors that could indicate the presence of an eating disorder include:

  • Refusing to eat in front of others
  • Frequently skipping meals

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Causes Of Eating Disorders

While its unclear why exactly someone develops an eating disorder, some people believe they stem from social pressures to be thin caused by social media and fashion magazines. Others believe eating disorders are a way to feel in control.

Most specialists believe that eating disorders develop because of a combination of psychological, environmental and genetic factors.

Psychological factors could be:

  • Being vulnerable to depression and anxiety
  • Finding stress hard to manage
  • Worrying a lot about the future
  • Being a perfectionist
  • Having obsessive or compulsive feelings
  • Fear of being labelled fat or overweight

Environmental factors could be:

  • Criticism for your body shape or eating habits
  • Difficult family relationships
  • Having a job or hobby where being thin is seen as ideal

Genetic factors could be:

  • Changes in your brain or hormone levels
  • Family history of eating disorders, depression or substance misuse

In this section

Abnormal Brain And Hormone Function


In people without eating disorders, semi-starvation triggers anxiety, depression, neuroticism, and obsessive behavioural patterns around food. These mental conditions support a continuous cycle of starvation. Brain imaging studies suggest that people suffering from eating disorders have alterations in their brain circuitry that contribute to these diseases. Also, abnormalities in activities or structure of the hypothalamus and problems with serotonin pathways promote the development of eating disorders. These abnormalities may explain why people with anorexia can inhibit their appetite and why people with binge eating disorder or bulimia are susceptible to overeating.

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Outlook And Treatment For Eating Disorders

An eating disorder can have a major impact on a persons life, including their relationships, job, schoolwork, and physical health. Without treatment, in the most extreme cases, eating disorders can be fatal.

With all eating disorders, the first step is recognising that theres a problem and being willing to seek help. If youre worried that you have an eating disorder, the first step towards getting help is usually speaking to your GP.

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