Causes of eating disorders
While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations with food and weight, they are most often about much more than food.
Eating disorders are complex conditions that start from a combination of long-standing behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factor. Scientists and researchers are still learning about the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically damaging conditions. However, some of the general issues that contribute to the development of eating disorders have been discovered.
People with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming. For some, dieting, bingeing, and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of life. But ultimately, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of competence and control.
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
- Depression, anxiety, anger or loneliness
- Troubled family and personal relationships
- Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
- History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Cultural pressures that glorify thinness and place value on obtaining the perfect body
- Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
- Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strength
- Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion have been found to be imbalanced.
- Eating disorders often run in families. Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.
Information modified from National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).