Risk factors don’t cause a particular disorder, but are often associated with it. While it is true that anyone at almost any age can develop an eating disorder, some risk factors put certain groups at a higher risk for developing one. For example, women in their teens and early 20s have the highest risk of developing an eating disorder. Further, those who have lost weight through dieting, or those who are athletes, actors, dancers, or models have an increased risk because these activities require them to appear a certain way or perform at a certain level. Some other common risk factors include:
- Demographic factors. Although eating disorders can affect anyone at any age, they are significantly more common in females in teenage and young adult years. In fact, 85% of all eating disorders develop in females and 95% of all eating disorders occur between the ages of 12 and 25.
- Body Ideals. People who internalize and glamorize thin body ideals or muscularity are more likely to develop an eating disorder. These people are more likely to be dissatisfied with their own body and, thus, motivated to try to achieve a thin figure. Overall, anyone who has low self-esteem or a distorted body image is more at risk to develop an eating disorder.
- Behavior. Individuals will be more at risk to develop an eating disorder if they engage in certain behaviors such as frequent dieting, alcohol consumption, and solitary food consumption.
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Causes Of Eating Disorders
The exact reason why some people experience disorders involving eating is not yet known. However, there are likely numerous causes, including:
- Biological. Although still under investigation, researchers believe that genetics are associated with the development of eating disorders. This theory also explains why eating disorders often run in families, especially first-degree relatives. Individuals who develop eating disorders are believed to have imbalanced hormones that control hunger, appetite, stress and anxiety, such as the hormone cortisol. Research continues into the biochemical conditions that could contribute to the presence of eating disorders.
- Emotional & Interpersonal. Certain emotional characteristics are believed to cause eating disorders such as low self-esteem, depression, loneliness, anger and feelings of inadequacy or lack of control. People who have troubled relationships or have a history of physical or sexual abuse are also more likely to develop unhealthy eating habits.
- Social & Cultural. Certain social and cultural pressures certainly contribute to body image issues and eating disorders. Our culture tends to have a narrow definition of beauty, and glorifies slender body types in all forms of media–magazines, movies, television, the internet, and more. This cultural standard of beauty can easily shape our perception of people based on their physical appearance alone. People can become overly obsessed with their physical appearance and develop an eating disorder to uphold certain standards of beauty. In addition to cultural pressures, social pressures contribute to poor body image as well. Any kind of social discrimination surrounding physical appearances, including ethnicity and weight, can likely cause eating disorder development.
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What Are the Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder?
Depending on the type of disorder, symptoms and eating disorder treatments will vary. For anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight and an intense fear of gaining weight, patients often severely reduce their caloric intake or use other harmful measures to lose weight. They might exercise obsessively or abuse laxatives or diet aids.
In contrast, bulimia nervosa involves episodes of binging and purging. Many patients eat a large amount of food in a short period of time and then experience intense feelings of shame or guilt for their actions. This cycle leads patients to compensate by taking extreme measures such as vomiting or abusing laxatives or diuretics.
Unlike individuals suffering from anorexia or bulimia, those experiencing a binge eating disorder do not attempt to purge. Instead, they will consume a large amount of food, often in secret and/or at night, in a short period of time. This leads to feelings of shame and disgust with their actions. Binge eating disorder patients often experience unexplained weight gain.
Get a Free Eating Disorder Treatment Assessment
Do you think you or someone you know might have an eating disorder? We offer free online assessments to help you determine next steps in the eating disorder treatment process. Just choose the assessment type below and answer the questions honestly and completely. One of our intake specialists will review your results and follow-up with you to answer your questions, learn more about you, and help you decide if Rosewood is right for you.
Minors: If you are under 18 years of age you must complete this form with the help of a parent, and your parent must be involved in all aspects of the communication about your online assessment.