Causes for Eating Disorders


The exact cause of eating disorders remains unidentified. Nevertheless, we know that in most cases eating disorders are underpinned by a combination of complex biological, psychological and social factors, which are directly related to the development of these conditions.

Common difficulties in patients with eating disorders include low self-esteem, sorrow or anger, difficulties in expressing one’s feelings, problems in interpersonal relationships or within the family, traumatic experiences such as sexual abuse and pressures arising from the society regarding which body type is considered as pretty and acceptable. In addition, we know that in certain individuals the levels of substances which are responsible for controlling appetite, digestion and feelings differ from normal levels.

Eventually, eating disorders probably have various different causes. Frequently though, they arise either from a simple diet or as a means to control one’s environment and to conform to cultural body standards. It doesn’t take long, though, before this situation takes its course and becomes a dependency, influencing one’s emotions and thoughts.

Despite the fact that the development of eating disorders may result from one’s preoccupation with food and body weight, eating disorders are frequently attributed to deeper factors. Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-term behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors. Even if scientists and researchers have not given up research on the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically harmful conditions, some of the more general factors that trigger these conditions are already known to us.

People who develop eating disorders often use food and control over it as a means to compensate for feelings which would otherwise overwhelm them. In some cases, people make a habit of dieting, binge eating and self-induced vomiting so as to deal with painful feelings and feel being in control of their lives. In the end though, these unhealthy eating habits ruin their emotional and physical well-being and annihilate the feelings of self-respect, competence and control.

Psychological Factors That Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control over one’s life
  • Depression, anxiety, anger and loneliness

Interpersonal Factors That Can Contribute To Eating Disorders:

  • Troubled family environment and strained interpersonal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing one’s feelings
  • History of being teased based on body weight
  • History of psychical or sexual abuse

Social Factors That Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Social 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 on the basis of inner qualities and competence

Other Factors That Can Contribute to Eating Disorders:

  • Scientists are still examining possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. In some individuals with eating disorders, certain brain chemicals that control hunger, appetite and digestion have been found to be unbalanced. Nevertheless, the exact meaning and implications of this imbalance remain under investigation.
  • Eating disorders are often due to hereditary factors. Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex conditions that may arise from various potential causes. Once they appear, they can lead to a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional self-destruction. All eating disorders call for professional help.