Many people think that eating disorders are caused by a combination of psychological and environmental factors. Others believe that they stem from the pressures to be thin caused by fashion magazines and social media. Still, most specialists believe that there is no one cause for eating disorders. Instead, they develop as a result of a series of risk factors that lead to an unhealthy pattern of behavior around food.
These risk factors can include the way that someone is brought up or raised, their relationship with their family members and the types of experiences they may have had in the past. They can also include the kind of work that a person does or the activities they like to do, such as sports, dance, modeling and other jobs or hobbies that require a particular body type.
Some of the most significant risk factors include a history of trauma and other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder. People who have suffered from these conditions are at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder. They may become more withdrawn, have difficulty expressing their feelings and experience difficulty coping with emotions in general. This can make them more prone to attempting to manage feelings by using food as a comfort and a way to gain control over their lives.
People who have anorexia are often girls and young women who are extremely dissatisfied with their body weight or shape. They may be a perfectionist and have a hard time coping with the natural changes in their bodies during puberty. Their self-esteem is low and they feel unloveable. They may have problems in their relationships and feel unable to talk about them.
Anorexia is the most serious of the eating disorders and can lead to severe health problems. It is most common in adolescent girls.
Another form of eating disorder is bulimia. This is characterized by binge eating followed by purging behaviors such as vomiting or laxative use. It is very common among college students and can have serious medical consequences.
Research has shown that a genetic predisposition can lead to eating disorders. However, it is important to note that genes do not cause eating disorders and that they occur in conjunction with other risk factors.
The emerging field of epigenetics, which studies how environmental stressors can affect the expression of certain genes, is providing more insight into genetic-environment interactions. The study of epigenetics suggests that if a person has a genetic predisposition to an eating disorder, the environment that they are in can trigger the development of the disorder.
People who have a high risk of an eating disorder are also at higher risk for developing other illnesses and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer and depression. In addition, they are at increased risk of suicide. For this reason, anyone who has the symptoms of an eating disorder should seek treatment as soon as possible.