Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have life-threatening consequences. They may appear to be about body weight on the surface but there are often underlying issues associated with them. One of the most common questions psychiatrists get asked by people who have children with eating disorders is what caused them?
There are multiple causes of eating disorders and we may never know what exact reason. It can depend entirely on the individual. Here are some of the causes commonly associated with eating disorders.
Like other mental health problems, genetics are thought to play a role in eating disorders. Certain genes may increase an individual’s risk of developing one. There have been studies that show that people with first-degree relatives- parents or siblings- that have an eating disorder are more likely to develop one too.
Psychological & Emotional Health
People who have eating disorders may also have psychological and emotional health problems that contribute to their disorder. Low self-esteem, Perfectionism, impulsive behavior, troubled relationships, or trauma could all be causes of eating disorders.
Society puts an emphasis on looking thin, especially for women. Success, wealth and even self-worth are all equated to a low body weight. Just pick up a magazine and you’ll see. Peer pressure, from society, friends, parents, and others, all fuel the desire to be thin- at whatever cost. The pressure to fit into this image can cause people to develop eating disorders in an attempt to achieve this.
While certain situations, events, and characteristics won’t cause an eating disorder they may increase the risk of one developing.
Women are much more likely than men to develop eating disorders, especially bulimia and anorexia. Binge-eating disorder is one of the few eating disorders that affect men in almost equal numbers.
Eating disorders can occur in at any age. They are much more common during the teenage and early adulthood years. Teenage girls are particularly at higher risk than any other demographic.
Eating disorders are more likely to occur in people who have siblings or parents who have them. This could be because of genetics or just learned behavior. Family dynamics also play into this. A family focused on weight and eating will reflect on the child.
Certain mental health disorders make people more likely to develop eating disorders. Depression, anxiety, or OCD all increase one’s risk of developing one. A common symptom of these mental health disorders is low self-esteem, which makes them susceptible.
People who lose weight through dieting get positive reinforcement through comments and compliments by others. This can cause some people to take dieting too far ultimately leading to an eating disorder in hopes of continuously receiving that praise.
Change often brings stress with it. Whether that change is from moving, school, a job, or family or relationship issues, stress will probably come. An increase in stress could lead to an increased risk of developing an eating disorder. Change can make people feel out of control and one way to gain control over stress and change is through eating.
Certain occupations, activities, or hobbies require, or recommend a certain body type. Athletes, actors, dancers, and models all have higher risks of eating disorders. Coaches, bosses, and parents may unwilling contribute to these disorders by encouraging weight loss or excessive exercise.
Eating Disorder Treatment
Eating disorders are treatable. The earlier they are caught the better chances for a full recovery are. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder seek help.