Eating disorders are not uncommon, affecting 8.4% of women and 2.2% of men worldwide at some point in their lifetime. These conditions have some of the highest mortality rates among mental health and substance abuse disorders, but treatment can help them be more manageable.
What causes eating disorders?
There are several different risk factors for developing an eating disorder. Some are biological, while others are psychological or emotional in nature.
Genetic predisposition to an eating disorder may result from the presence of a gene that affects brain chemicals related to appetite and metabolism. The same genes may also increase or decrease an individual’s susceptibility to certain illnesses.
Personality traits such as perfectionism and anxiety, impulsivity and moodiness, can also influence an individual’s development of an eating disorder. People who have these traits are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors that lead to an eating disorder such as dieting and bingeing.
These behavior patterns can snowball into anorexia and bulimia, which are the most common types of eating disorders. Other psychological factors that contribute to eating disorders include a history of sexual abuse, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem.
Other Physical Factors
During adolescence, hormonal changes can trigger changes in a person’s weight and body image. It’s normal for teenagers to have low self-esteem and be obsessed with their appearance, but when these concerns become severe, they can trigger an eating disorder.
Athletes, models and other people in high-pressure careers that require thinness as a part of their job or training are more at risk for developing an eating disorder because of the pressure they are under to look a certain way. These individuals may also be more susceptible to a disorder because of the social environment they are exposed to, including peers and parents who may be attempting to encourage them to eat less or diet to achieve a certain body weight.
Some people are more prone to an eating disorder if they have other conditions that affect their appetite, such as diabetes or thyroid disease. This is because these conditions can cause the brain to secrete hormones that increase appetite, making it harder to maintain a healthy weight.
Life Changes and Trauma
Stressful life events such as a major loss, a relationship breakup or a serious illness can trigger an eating disorder. They can also occur in conjunction with other mental health problems such as a depressive disorder, an obsessive-compulsive disorder or drug addiction.
Binge Eating Disorder
This is the most common type of eating disorder and is defined by an overwhelming desire to eat large amounts of food. It can be hard to control and may cause nausea, vomiting and other problems.
It can happen to anyone at any age and weight. Symptoms can include excessive eating, feeling guilty about eating, and an inability to stop eating after you feel full.
These symptoms can be difficult to treat, and many people suffer from distorted beliefs about their bodies and the ways they eat. They can also make it hard to talk about their symptoms, so it’s important for a person with an eating disorder to seek support as soon as possible.