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What Causes an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are complex conditions that emerge from the combination of long-standing behaviors, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors.

Scientists and researchers are still learning about the causes of these physical and emotional conditions that do so much damage. However, we know some generalities that contribute to the development of eating disorders.

Although eating disorders can begin with concerns about food and weight, they are much more than just food. People with eating disorders use food and food control as an attempt to compensate feelings and emotions that are otherwise seen as unbearable. For some, diet, binge eating and purging can begin as a way to deal with painful emotions and to feel in control of their personal life, but in the end these behaviors damage physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and competitiveness and control of the person.

Psychological factors that may contribute to eating disorders:

  • Low self-esteem.
  • Feelings of insufficiency or lack of control of your life.
  • Depression, anxiety, anger and loneliness.

Interpersonal factors that may contribute to eating disorders:

  • Problematic personal and family relationships.
  • Difficulty to express feelings and emotions.
  • Being bullied or ridiculed based on size or weight.
  • History of physical or sexual abuse.

Social factors that may contribute to eating disorders:

  • Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and give it a value to get a “perfect body”.
  • Very specific definitions of beauty that include only women and men with certain weights and figures.
  • Cultural norms that value people based on their physical appearance and not their internal qualities and virtues.

Biological factors that may contribute to eating disorders:

Scientists are still investigating possible biochemical or biological causes for eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters) that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be imbalanced. The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances are still being researched.

Eating disorders are usually present in families. Current studies indicate that genetics contributes significantly to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a variety of probable causes. However, once they begin, they can create cycles of physical and emotional destruction that perpetuate themselves. Professional help is recommended in the food treatment.

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