Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are conditions that relate to continuous eating behaviors that affect your functionality, health and emotions negatively. Commonly known eating disorders include binge eating, bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Most causes of eating disorders originate from the victim's over thinking about their body shape, weight and food. This results in dangerous eating behaviors. Such behaviors can cause a deficiency of nutrients required for growth and functionality. Eating disorders can cause harm to your mouth and teeth, bones, digestive system, heart and lead to other illnesses, too.

Causes of Eating Disorders

1.    Genetics

Studies have shown that genetics contribute to eating disorders. Individuals with specific genotypes are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders. This also shows that eating disorders can be inherited. If you have a family member with an eating disorder, you are 7-12 times more likely to have one yourself. Newer studies are exploring the possibility of epigenetics influencing eating disorders.

2.    Temperament

Genes that have been linked to eating disorders are related to particular personality traits. Such aspects of personality are deemed to be heritable and often seen before eating disorders begin. People who develop eating disorders might have the following traits:

  • Excessive persistence and rigidity, particularly in anorexia nervosa
  • Impulsivity, particularly in bulimia nervosa
  • Neuroticism (hypersensitivity and emotional instability)
  • Harm avoidance, sensitivity to punishment or reward
  • Perfectionism
  • Obsessive thinking

3.    Biology

Even with healthy people, a state of semi-starvation can trigger obsessive behavior around food, anxiety, depression, as well as neuroticism that foster a continued starvation cycle. Studies have shown people with eating disorders have tampered with the brain circuitry, which causes eating disorders. This can explain why some people are able to inhibit their appetite (anorexia nervosa) and why others are prone to overeating (binge).

4.    Trauma

Trauma from sexual or physical abuse can be one of the causes of eating disorders. A trauma victim will normally experience shame, guilt, feeling they have no control and body dissatisfaction. Eating disorders might come about when you are trying to gain control over these overwhelming emotions. In some cases, an individual might express self-punishment for the trauma through an eating disorder. In such cases, it is important to deal with both the trauma and eating disorder concurrently.

5.    Coping Skill Deficits

Most people with eating disorders often lack mechanisms to deal with negative emotions. The eating disorder becomes a response to the depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, trauma and emotional pain. Without the proper coping skills, eating disorders will provide quick relief to your trouble, but at a cost to your psychological and psychical well-being.

6.    Psychology

Some psychological factors cause eating disorders. If anything, people with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders often have eating disorders. Other factors include:

  • Impulsivity
  • Perfectionism
  • Problems expressing or coping with emotions
  • Feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness
  • Low-self esteem

7.    Culture

Wanting to be thin, body dissatisfaction and dieting are common causes of eating disorders. Today's society encourages all 3 of them. Some of the aspects of culture that promote eating disorders include:

  • Beauty standards that endorse an impractically thin body size
  • Lots of emphasis on appearance, ignoring meaningful characteristics
  • Relating thinness to positive attributes like health, attractiveness, love and success
  • Focus on striving for a toned, slim figure or dieting
  • Messages that propagate fear of food and fat

8.    Environment

Environmental factors can make you develop eating disorders. Such factors include:

  • Peer pressure
  • Turbulent or difficult childhood
  • Family and any other relationship issues
  • Activities that focus on weight like modeling, wrestling, running, dancing and gymnastics
  • Being bullied because of appearance or weight

9.    Diet

Exercise and moderate change in diet can be healthy. However, significant physical and mental consequences can result from unhealthy or extreme dieting. For this reason, dieting is considered to be one of the causes of eating disorders. It is also linked to other health issues such as weight gain, metabolic and nutrition problems, anxiety and depression.

Ways to Manage Eating Disorders

Treating eating disorders requires team effort made up of dietitians, mental health providers and medical health providers – all of whom have knowledge concerning eating disorders.

Treatment will depend on which eating disorder you have. In general, it involves nutrition education, medication and psychotherapy. Hospitalization might be an option if your life is in danger.

1.    Psychotherapy

Also referred to as talk therapy, psychotherapy can help you learn how to replace your eating disorder with healthy eating habits. This includes:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) - This is mostly used for binge eating and bulimia. You are taught how to develop problem-solving skills, healthy stress coping mechanisms, how to deal with your moods and how to monitor eating habits. It can also help with your relationships and moods.
  • Family-based therapy (FBT) - It is an evidence-based treatment for teenagers and children. The family participates in ensuring the child maintain a healthy weight and have healthy eating habits.

2.    Weight Management

If you are underweight because of an eating disorder, you first need is to get to a healthy weight. You can do this through advice from dietitians and health care providers. You should develop an eating plan that will foster normal eating habits.

3.    Medications

Medication might not cure eating disorders, but it can help with reducing tendencies to purge or binge or assist in management of excessive preoccupations with diet and food. Anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication can help with anxiety and depression symptoms related to eating disorders.

4.    Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Additional treatments can assist lower anxiety in individuals with eating disorders. The same treatments can assist people with eating disorders by promoting relaxation and reducing stress. Such treatments include:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
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