Causes for developing an eating disorder can be very complex and different for each person. However, scientists have identified several groups of major risk factors. They are divided into Biological, Social and Psychological. Although we are not able to prevent most of them, we can identify the causes. Understanding the problem is crucial for solving it.
- Family burden. It is not clear whether the cause is the environment or the gene, but the presence of a family member with an eating disorder is considered as a risk factor.
- Body shape genes. Not all of us are lucky enough to be born slim and fit. Some of us are genetically bigger. Our genes determine how our body accumulates and stores fat. If we genetically have bigger body shape, then the risk of developing an eating disorder is higher.
- Media. The prevailing public opinion that a woman is beautiful when she is slim and looks a certain way is one of the main reasons for development of an eating disorder. In addition to this pressure from television and magazines, nowadays there is a whole industry of different nutritionists, trainors, special diet foods and beverages, appliances, medicines, etc. They all promise that a more fit and slim body would change our lives and make us happier.
- Teasing and bullying. Being teased or bullied – especially about weight – is emerging as a risk factor in many eating disorders.
- Restricted freedom. One of the common reasons for developing an eating disorder is the limited freedom. Such a restriction is observed, for example, in families in which parents take absolute control over their children’s lives and do not leave them a choice. Another example is some of the religions that restrict free will. When people lack independence, they try to compensate by exercising control over their own body and the food they eat.
- Body image dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. It’s sadly not uncommon to dislike your appearance, but people who develop eating disorders are more likely to report higher levels of body image dissatisfaction and an internalization of the appearance ideal.
- Perfectionism. One of the strongest risk factors for an eating disorder is perfectionism, especially a type of perfectionism called self-oriented perfectionism, which involves setting unrealistically high expectations for yourself.
When we find out the causes and risk factors that affect us most, understand them and work on them, it is easier to start loving ourselves again and heal.