Eating disorders are complex mental wellness issues that involve an underlying combination of genetic, physical, psychological and social factors. Many people develop eating disorders when they are young, and it’s important to identify symptoms early and seek professional treatment.
Body image (body shape and weight) is one of the most common and influential factors in the development of an eating disorder. This pressure is especially prevalent in the media, where a thin and perfect figure is often viewed as an ideal. Moreover, many people who are diagnosed with an eating disorder also have other health problems, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Gender and Age
Women are more likely than men to develop anorexia nervosa, but males can have eating disorders as well. Girls tend to develop anorexia at a younger age than boys, typically in their teens and early 20s.
Family History of Anorexia nervosa or Bulimia nervosa
Teenagers who have a parent or sibling with an eating disorder are more likely to develop an eating disorder as well. This is due to a number of factors, including the fact that they have been influenced by their parents’ behaviors and attitudes, such as restricting food or bingeing.
A person’s gender, age and social background are also considered risk factors. These include having an older parent, being part of a sports or artistic group that places a high value on staying slim, and having a family history of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorders.
Several studies have found that adolescents who are exposed to media and advertising promoting an idealized body shape are more likely to develop an eating disorder. These ads often feature thin and beautiful models and actresses, and they can cause individuals to become obsessed with their appearance.
Weight related teasing and comments from peers have also been linked to the development of eating disorders. These comments can be critical or reassuring, and they may reinforce the individual’s preoccupation with their appearance. Similarly, parents who frequently express criticism about their child’s weight and shape are at risk for encouraging the development of an eating disorder in their children.
Stress and coping strategies
Those with eating disorders have difficulty regulating their emotions, especially when they are under a lot of stress. Research has shown that enhancing emotion regulation skills can help people manage emotional stress and prevent the development of an eating disorder.
Increasing mindfulness in people who are at high risk for developing an eating disorder could be helpful. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness techniques can increase self-regulation and improve the ability to handle negative feelings.
A positive body image is another way to reduce the risk of developing an eating disorder. Body acceptance involves letting go of the idea that you must look a certain way to be happy and feel good about yourself. This can be difficult for those who have distorted body images, but it’s important to remember that everyone should feel confident about themselves and their body.