Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, but it is generally believed they are the result of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors.
 

Biological causes

Studies have shown a genetic link amongst family members with eating disorders. It’s not uncommon to see eating disorders span generations. While there are clear links within families, it’s important to note that eating disorders are often accompanied with other mental health co-morbidities, such as depression, anxiety and other mood disorders as well as drug or alcohol abuse. Eating disorder treatment centers should address these co-occurring disorders while an individual is receiving care.

Environmental causes

The environment can certainly play a role in the development of eating disorders, too.

  • Traumatic experiences
  • Feelings of pressure to look a certain way
  • Sports performance requirements
  • Expectations about grades in school
  • Family dynamics

The above are all examples of how a sufferer’s environment can fuel eating disorder symptoms. Many times, a patient’s drive for perfectionism to achieve his or her own personal standard of excellence contributes greatly to the eating disorder.

Cultural causes

Culture also plays a role in and can help cause eating disorders. Every day, we are besieged with messages about beauty, unrealistic body images and fad diets. Patients with eating disorders are abnormally preoccupied with food, oftentimes labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad." 

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.

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