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The Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions with multifaceted causes. They typically result from a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors. Here are some of the key factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders:

  1. Genetic and Biological Factors:

  • Genetics: There is evidence to suggest that certain genetic factors may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. Individuals with a family history of eating disorders may be more predisposed to them.

  • Brain chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) like serotonin may play a role in the development of eating disorders.

  • Hormonal factors: Fluctuations in hormones, particularly those related to puberty, can influence an individual's susceptibility to eating disorders.

  1. Psychological Factors:

  • Low self-esteem: People with low self-esteem may be more vulnerable to developing eating disorders as they seek to gain a sense of control and self-worth through their eating habits and body image.

  • Perfectionism: High levels of perfectionism and the desire for control can lead to rigid and unhealthy eating behaviors.

  • Body dissatisfaction: An obsession with achieving a particular body shape or size can lead to disordered eating patterns.

  1. Environmental and Sociocultural Factors:

  • Peer pressure: Social influences, such as peer pressure to conform to certain body ideals or dieting trends, can contribute to the development of eating disorders.

  • Media and societal pressures: Images and messages in the media and society that promote unrealistic beauty standards and glorify thinness can play a significant role in the development of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating.

  • Family dynamics: Dysfunctional family dynamics, including a history of weight-related teasing, criticism, or overly controlling behaviours, can contribute to eating disorders.

  • Trauma or abuse: Individuals who have experienced trauma or abuse may use disordered eating as a coping mechanism.

  1. Dieting and Weight-Related Behaviours:

  • Dieting: Restrictive dieting and extreme weight loss behaviours can increase the risk of developing eating disorders, especially in vulnerable individuals.

  • Weight cycling: Repeated cycles of weight loss and regain (yo-yo dieting) can contribute to disordered eating patterns.

As a result of these causes, this leads to a belief system and fear that you will put on ‘excessive, catastrophic, immediate weight gain’ and here is a handy diagram of that process and how the ED is maintained:

If you are struggling with eating issues, diagnosed or not, I would love to be able to support you in your recovery. Feel free to book an intro call with me and we can discuss what support you need.


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