Tuesday, July 16, 2024

What Causes Eating Disorders And What Do They Cause

Don't Miss

Abnormal Brain And Hormone Function

Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders? The experts speak.

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.

How To Get Help Or Support Someone Whos Struggling

When it comes to our mental health, people who struggle with negative body image feel that their bodies are inferior to others, and are more likely to suffer from feelings of depression, isolation, and low self-esteem. Beyond just mental and physical health, having an intensely negative body image can lead to lack of participation in and withdrawal from social plans, as well as shying away from intimacy, potentially eroding communication and trust in friendships and relationships.

Its extremely important to encourage loved ones who may be struggling with these issues to seek professional help or get help yourself. In most cases, eating disorders can be treated successfully by appropriately trained health and mental health care professionals. As always, if you feel out of control and need help immediately, text START to 741-741 or call 1-800-273-TALK .

Additionally, our article Tips for Body Positivity: Ways to Feel Better About Our Bodies, offers resources and information to help you or someone you know get help and feel better about themselves.

What About The Treatment Of Other Eating Disorders Including Bed Arfid And Osfed

Eating disorders are behavioral problems and the most successful modalities of treatment all focus on normalizing eating and weight control behaviors whilst managing uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. Increasingly, we understand eating disorders as not just psychological problems but as disorders of learning and habit. Changing established habits can feel challenging, however practice of healthy eating behavior under expert therapeutic guidance helps develop skills needed to manage anxieties regarding food, weight and shape — all of which fade over time with the gradual achievement of mastery over recovery.

You May Like: How Common Are Eating Disorders In Adolescence

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.

Eating As An Addiction

(PDF) What Causes Eating Disorders

Modern psychology considers both emotional eating and binge eating as addictive behaviors. Much like illicit drugs, a person who emotionally or binge eats gets a high from the experience from increased dopamine levels. Like illicit substances, a person who binge eats will want more or feel like it is never enough. This is called a process addiction: it is marked by a compulsive behavior that eventually becomes a health threat because it leads to obesity and all of its associated health risks.

Emotional eating and stress eating may not be officially designated disorders in the DSM 5, but they both have links to binge eating disorder and trauma. Both can evolve from low self-esteem and cycles of shame, guilt, and overeating. When emotional and binge eating disrupt daily functioning and life quality, it can become Binge Eating Disorder

Also Check: What Does Bipolar Disorder Mean

Signs Of Anorexia Nervosa

People with anorexia nervosa have an extreme fear of gaining weight. They often diet and exercise relentlessly, sometimes to the point of starvation. About one-third to one-half of anorexics also binge and purge by vomiting or misusing laxatives. People with anorexia have a distorted body image, thinking they are overweight when in fact they are underweight. They may count calories obsessively and only allow themselves tiny portions of certain specific foods. When confronted, someone with anorexia will often deny that thereâs a problem.

The signs of anorexia can be subtle at first, because it develops gradually. It may begin as an interest in dieting before an event like a school dance or a beach vacation. But as the disorder takes hold, preoccupation with weight intensifies. It creates a vicious cycle: The more weight the person loses, the more that person worries and obsesses about weight.

The following symptoms and behaviors are common in people with anorexia:

Treatment For Eating Disorders

Fortunately, eating disorders can be treated. People with eating disorders can get well and gradually learn to eat well and more like their family and friends again. Eating disorders involve both the mind and body. So medical doctors, mental health professionals, and dietitians will often be involved in a persons treatment and recovery.

  • Eating disorders are treatable and the sooner someone gets the treatment he or she needs, the better the chance of a good recovery.

Typical treatment goals include restoring adequate nutrition, bringing weight to a healthy level, reducing excessive exercise, and stopping binging and purging behaviors. Specific forms of psychotherapy, or talk therapyincluding a family-based therapy called the Maudsley approach and cognitive behavioral approacheshave been shown to be useful for treating specific eating disorders. Evidence also suggests that antidepressant medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration may help for bulimia nervosa and also may be effective for treating co-occurring anxiety or depression for other eating disorders.

Treatment plans often are tailored to individual needs and may include one or more of the following:

  • Individual, group, or family psychotherapy
  • Medical care and monitoring
  • Nutritional counseling
  • Medications .

Some patients also may need to be hospitalized to treat problems caused by malnutrition or to ensure they eat enough if they are very underweight. Complete recovery is possible.

You May Like: What Is An Eating Disorder Classified As

What Causes Anorexia And Other Eating Disorders

There is no single cause for eating disorders. Each case is the result of a unique combination of factors that are biological, psychological, and social in nature. This is known as the biopsychosocial model in psychology.

While people generally know about the psychological and social pressures that can lead to eating disorders, the biological factors are often overlooked, leaving many patients without a crucial part of their path to recovery.;

Specifically, recognizing the role of inflammation and infections has become one of the most important pieces to helping patients in my practice who were previously thought to be treatment-resistant.

Treatment Of Eating Disorders In Teenagers

What Causes Eating Disorders? Part 1: Biological Causes

Treatment for eating disorders usually involves therapy, nutritional counseling, and sometimes medications. Family counseling may also be incorporated since recovery requires adequate environmental support at home.

If you believe your teen is struggling with an eating disorder, its important to find them help in a safe and judgment-free environment. Seeds of Hope offers personalized adolescent programs, from one-on-one therapy sessions to group counseling for teens.

Contact us to schedule an appointment; we have teletherapy available for multiple services. For more information, visit our page on teletherapy.

Also Check: What Is A Phobia Of Spoons Called

Then Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar drops and spikes can be a huge binge trigger. To balance your blood sugar ensure each of your meals should consist of roughly 50% complex carbohydrates, 25% proteins and 25% fats.

If you stick to this simple ratio, it will gradually stabilize your blood sugar levels and reduce your sugar cravings. Over time, you can discover a different ratio that works best for you and allows you to feel full for longer.

Eating Disorders: Warning Signs And Symptoms

You cant tell whether a person is struggling with an eating disordered just by looking at them, but there are often warning signs. Warning signs or red flags might suggest that a teen may develop or already has an eating disorder. Below is a list of signs that are linked to certain types of eating disorders. A person who has an eating disorder may have one or more of these signs. These signs may also mean that a person has another kind of health condition, so its best to talk with a trusted adult about your concerns before jumping to any conclusions.

Red flags for Anorexia Nervosa:

  • Skips meals
  • Makes excuses not to eat
  • Over-exercises
  • Eats only safe foods
  • Doesnt eat certain food groups
  • Has unusual behaviors around food
  • Cooks or bakes food for others but doesnt eat it
  • Watches food shows or visits food websites often
  • Obsessively reads nutrition information or counts calories
  • Constantly weighs themselves, or body checks
  • Chews a lot of gum or drinks large amounts of water, coffee, diet soda, or calorie-free beverages
  • Denies that there is a problem despite weight loss

Red flags for Bulimia Nervosa:

  • Uses the bathroom after eating or in the middle of meals
  • Consumes unusually large amounts of food at one time
  • Loses control around food
  • Eats as a way to control emotions
  • Hides food or empty wrappers
  • Others notice food disappearing rapidly
  • May hoard food

Read Also: How To Overcome Anxiety And Panic Attacks

Other Specified Feeding And Eating Disorders

Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders was previously known as Eating Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified in previous editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Despite being considered a catch-all classification that was sometimes denied insurance coverage for treatment as it was seen as less serious, OSFED/EDNOS is a serious, life-threatening, and treatable eating disorder. The category was developed to encompass those individuals who did not meet strict criteria for anorexia or bulimia but still had a significant eating disorder. In community clinics, the majority of individuals were historically diagnosed with Eating Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified .

Research into the severity of EDNOS/OSFED shows that the disorder is just as severe as anorexia and bulimia based on the following:

  • Children hospitalized for EDNOS had just as many medical complications as children hospitalized for anorexia nervosa
  • Adults with atypical or subclinical anorexia and/or bulimia scored just as high on measures of eating disorder thoughts and behaviors as those with DSM-diagnosed anorexia and bulimia
  • People with EDNOS were just as likely to die as a result of their eating disorder as people with anorexia or bulimia

Symptoms of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders

A diagnosis might then be allocated that specifies a specific reason why the presentation does not meet the specifics of another disorder .

Statistics of Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders

Concerned About Eating Disorders


Take one of our 2-minute eating disorder quizzes to see if you or a loved one could benefit from further diagnosis and treatment.

Common Types of Eating Disorders in Children

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder is a common eating disorder experienced by young children. Children with this disorder experience a disturbance in their eating which can include a lack of interest in food or a sensory aversion to certain foods. For example, a child might be averse to swallowing or the texture of foods they once enjoyed. They might also fear getting stomach aches or vomiting if they became sick because of a certain food. These aversions and restrictions can lead to weight loss and nutritional deficiency among young children.

Pica is a type of condition where a child might eat non-food or non-nutritional substances persistently. To be diagnosed with pica, the behavior must fall outside of the childs expected developmental level . These substances often include dirt, soap, chalk, sand, ice, and hair.

Anorexia nervosa can affect both young girls and boys. Children with anorexia think they are overweight when they seem very underweight to other people. Children might obsess about their food intake and with how to control their weight. They might exercise intensively or binge and then purge. Anorexia can cause significant damage to physical health and growth, so it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible for a child.

Don’t Miss: How To Control Your Eating Disorder

Who Is At Risk For Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can develop at any age. They affect all genders, races and ethnicities. Its a myth that eating disorders mostly affect girls and women. Boys and men are equally at risk. Certain factors may make you more prone to developing an eating disorder, such as:

  • Family history of eating disorders, addiction, or other mental health issues, such as depression.
  • A history of trauma .

Other factors include:

  • Diabetes .
  • Involvement in activities that focus on a slender appearance, such as modeling, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling and running.
  • Major life changes, such as starting a new school or job, a divorce or a move.
  • Perfectionistic tendencies.

A New Path For Recovery From Eating Disorders

Since I started recognizing the role of infections in eating disorders and behaviors, some of my patients have improved in ways they never thought would be possible. They have become less fearful, rigid, and more able to benefit from the therapy they were already receiving.;

Many patients with eating disorders feel stuck in a cycle. Even those who get better often relapse and need treatment again. I hope that more doctors will recognize and address the biological aspects of this condition so that we can help these patients break out of this pattern and find the path to recovery.

Also Check: Is There A Phobia Of Fear

Getting Help For Someone Else

It can be difficult to know what to do if you’re worried that someone has an eating disorder.

They may not realise they have an eating disorder. They may also deny it, or be secretive and defensive about their eating or weight.

Let them know you’re worried about them and encourage them to see a GP. You could offer to go along with them.

Eating Disorders: Symptoms Causes And Treatment

Eating Disorders: Why Do People Develop Eating Disorders?

Sharing is caring!

Eating disorders are among the most severe mental health diseases in existence yet receiving little attention. But why is this the case? The simple explanation is that an eating problem opens the door to a multitude of additional issues, nutrition being only one of them.

It is predicted that about 1% of all women and 0.5 % of all men may have symptoms associated with an eating problem at some time in their life. However, it is important to understand that not all eating disorders are the same, and that the generic term simply refers to a categorization system of a broad variety of related illnesses.

One thing that individuals with eating disorders have in common is that food becomes a major focus in their life, whether it is avoiding it at all costs or apparently not being able to obtain enough.

However, in order to gain a better knowledge of eating disorders and their severity, it is necessary to identify the various kinds of disorders and comprehend what they involve.

Read Also: Can Drug Use Cause Bipolar

Resources For Recovery From Eating Disorders

If you or someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder and are interested in the integrative medicine approach, you can visit the following databases to find a practitioner near you:

  • Integrative Medicine for Mental Health: The practitioners on this list use an integrative approach, and some have experience or expertise in treating infections and eating disorders.

  • PANDAS Network: Many practitioners on this list have experience with diagnostic workups and testing for infections in eating disorders.

Risk Factors For Eating Disorders


  • A family history of anorexia, bulimia and/or binge eating disorder may make certain people more at risk to have an eating disorder because of their genes or family upbringing
  • Chemicals in the brain that control hunger, digestion, and appetite



  • Societys intense focus on thinness and dieting
  • Participation in sports that focus on body shape and size such as dancing, rowing, gymnastics, track, wrestling, etc.
  • Abusive or troubled relationships that cause emotional stress and feelings of loss of control
  • Stress at school, sports, with peer groups, etc.
  • Specific cultural attitudes about how a person should look and behave

Body Image and Self-Esteem

Body Image and Self-Esteem: Teens are constantly exposed to unrealistic standards in the media such as airbrushed images and very fit-looking models and may feel pressure to lose weight or look a certain way. Because of these pressures, many teenagers develop bad body image and self-esteem. Although its normal for teenagers to not feel completely content with their bodies because theyre constantly changing, its important for teens to find ways to feel comfortable with the natural shape and size of their bodies.

You May Like: What Are The Symptoms Of Eating Disorders

What Are Eating Disorders

Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder, are psychological disorders that involve extreme disturbances in eating behavior. A teen with anorexia refuses to stay at a normal body weight. Someone with bulimia has repeated episodes of binge eating followed by compulsive behaviors such as vomiting or the use of laxatives to rid the body of food. Binge eating is characterized by uncontrolled overeating.

Anorexia nervosa affects as many as one in every 100 females. Teens with anorexia fear gaining weight and are at least 15% below their ideal body weights. They believe the main gauge of self-worth is their body image.

Experts believe many American girls are bulimic and have kept the problem a secret. Bulimia often starts in the late teens and early adulthood. People with bulimia go through cycles of eating enormous amounts of foods followed by purging by vomiting, using laxatives, or diuretics or hours of aerobic exercise.

Warning signs of bulimia include:

  • Extreme preoccupation about being overweight
  • Strict dieting followed by high-calorie eating binges
  • Overeating when distressed
  • Frequent use of laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive exercising
  • Irregular menstrual cycles

More articles

Popular Articles