Eating disorders don’t have a single cause. There are different factors at play and these include psychological, biological, social, and external factors. This is why eating disorders know no age, boundaries, or limitations. While they are more common in teens and young adults, they can affect people of any age, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Low self-esteem or feelings of inadequacy are two of the most common mental or psychological factors for the development of an eating disorder. Anorexia treatment centers note that anxiety or depression, perfectionism, and impulsive behaviors may also play a part. Other psychological factors include:
- Difficulty expressing emotions (especially negative ones)
- Fear of conflict
- Too concerned with what others think
- A belief that high achievement can bring love and respect from family and friends
- Behavioral inflexibilities
Studies suggest having a close or a first-degree relative with an eating disorder can increase a person’s risk of developing the said condition. The risk also increases with having a close relative with mental health conditions like addiction, anxiety, and depression. It is also noted that those suffering from an eating disorder have an imbalance of certain brain chemicals.
Misconceptions about weight and ideal body may play a part in increasing the likelihood of strict dieting and food restriction. This is because there is a high cultural value placed on being thin, with the concept that thinner is better, putting a heavy emphasis on achieving the “perfect body”. Other social factors include:
- Jobs or professions that focus on body size and image (athletes, models, and dancers)
- Media’s unrealistic portrayal of idea bodies and shapes
- Bullying or teasing
- Having fewer friends or social activities
- The concept of valuing people based on their appearance
There are also external factors at play like major life events such as loss of a loved one, moving jobs and schools, or divorce of parents. The inability to cope or deal with stress may also contribute to the onset of disorders, as well as:
- Peer pressure
- Having troubled relationships
- Physical or sexual abuse
- A family history of obesity, eating disorders, or depression
Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can affect anyone. This is why you shouldn’t hesitate to seek support and professional help if you or someone you know is suffering from the said condition.