What Causes Eating Disorders?

What Causes Eating Disorders?Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating are serious psychological problems that have life-threatening physical ramifications. Since most people develop eating disorders as teens or pre-teens, understanding the causes can help prevent them or provide for earlier treatment.

The Basics of Anorexia

People who suffer from anorexia have an unhealthy, unrealistic and dangerous relationship with food and eating. Most fear eating, because they fear becoming overweight. They often have completely irrational views of their own bodies and feel that they are getting fat even when everyone around them can see them wasting away. As the disease progresses the anorexic person will become unable to eat normally. The vast majority of people suffering from this disorder will not receive treatment before permanent damage is done.

The Basics of Bulimia

Bulimia involves binge eating and purging in the form of forced vomiting or the abuse of diuretics, laxatives, diet pills and other medications. This type of physical abuse causes significant damage to the stomach, esophagus, teeth and mouth. The abuse of laxatives and other medications causes damage to the endocrine system and intestinal function. Bulimia often involves other psychological issues including depression.

Causes of Eating Disorders

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) there are both genetic and psychological causes of these diseases. Though specific genes have not been identified, the likelihood of developing an eating disorder is five to six times higher for a person who comes from a family with a history of anorexia or bulimia. These families should be especially aware of the signs of eating disorders and should work to maintain a healthy relationship with food. There are many psychological causes of eating disorders. Some of these include the following:

  • Control issues
  • Perfectionism
  • Perceived high expectations from parents
  • Exposure to dieting or weight obsession in parents
  • Body image insecurity
  • Tension in the home
  • Craving attention
  • Low self-esteem
  • Mood or personality disorders
  • Impulse control disorder
  • Exposure to sexual abuse

The full effects of eating disorders can be prevented with early recognition of the symptoms and early treatment.

Effects of Eating Disorders

If left untreated eating disorders are fatal. As the body is deprived of much-needed nutrients, it eventually shuts down. Severe depression is also common, and many people who struggle with eating disorders for extended periods of time become suicidal. Some of the most common symptoms of eating disorders include the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Listlessness
  • Persistent depression
  • Mood swings
  • Bone and muscle wasting
  • Inability to focus
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Severe anxiety

It may seem to the bystander that curing anorexia is as simple as eating a good meal. Unfortunately this is not the case, as eating disorders are about more than food. Recovery is possible but requires the expert care of specialized doctors.

Finding Help with Eating Disorder Recovery

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, please call our toll-free helpline so our expert staff can get you the help you need. If you are concerned about a friend or loved one, please call this same helpline and let our counselors answer your questions and give you important guidance on how best to confront them about their disease. We are here to help 24 hours a day.