Causes of Eating Disorders

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Causes of Eating Disorders

Causes of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are behavioral conditions related to persistent eating behaviors that can negatively impact your health, emotions, and ability to function in different areas of your life. People with eating disorders may experience a severe and persistent disturbance in eating behaviors that are associated with negative thoughts and emotions. These disorders are tightly linked to mental health and are often the result of some form of mental disorder. Our treatment center in Palm Beach goes over the possible causes of eating disorders and the signs to look out for.

Different Types of Eating Disorders

There are seven different types of eating disorders:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: This is characterized by self-starvation and weight loss resulting in low weight for height and age. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder other than opioid use disorder.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: People with bulimia nervosa usually alternate their dieting or only eat low-calorie “safe foods” and binge eat “forbidden” or high-calorie foods. Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a short period that’s associated with a loss of control over what or how much you’re eating. People with bulimia nervosa usually attempt to compensate for binge eating by vomiting.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: Similar to bulimia nervosa, people with binge eating disorder may have episodes of binge eating in which they eat large amounts of food in a short period and experience a loss of control regarding what and how much they’re eating. However, they do not attempt to compensate for binge eating by vomiting, fasting, exercising, or using laxatives like people with bulimia nervosa.
  • Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID): This one is recently identified as an eating disorder that involves a disturbance in eating, resulting in a persistent failure to meet nutritional needs. People with ARFID tend to be picky eaters, and many people with ARFID have ADHD, are on the autism spectrum, or are children who did not outgrow picky eating.
  • Pica: Pica is an eating disorder in which a person repeatedly eats things that aren’t food and don’t have any nutritional value, including things like paper, paint chips, soap, cloth, hair, string, chalk, metal, or pebbles.
  • Rumination Disorder: Rumination eating disorder, also called merycism, involves the repeated regurgitation and re-chewing of food after eating. This means that a person with rumination disorder will regurgitate the food they’ve already chewed and swallowed so they can re-chew it and re-swallow it or spit it out.
  • Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder: This category includes eating disorders that cause distress and affect a person’s relationships, social life, or work function but do not fit into the other categories that are listed.

Although the physical and psychological causes of eating disorders are extensive, there are available treatment options. Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches offers inpatient eating disorder treatment among our other mental health services to assist people with any of the above conditions in their recovery. We understand that these disorders can greatly impact a person’s life, which is why we offer a safe environment where patients can get help from our leading specialists.

What Are the Possible Causes of Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders often co-occur with other mental disorders, most commonly mood and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and substance use disorders. Research also suggests that eating disorders can be genetic or hereditary, meaning that a person with a family history of eating disorders is at a higher risk of developing one. But there are other contributing factors we have to keep in mind.

Generally, the causes of eating disorders are genetics and mental illness. Certain people may contain genes that increase their risk of developing an eating disorder. Biological factors like chemical changes in the brain may also play a role in eating disorders. Moreover, people who engage in substance abuse often experience these chemical changes, putting them at risk of developing an eating disorder. Additionally, eating disorders often co-occur with mental disorders like depression, anxiety, OCD, and substance use disorders. A person who struggles with low-self esteem, distorted self-image (body dysmorphia), perfectionism, impulsive behavior, trauma, or troubled relationships is more likely to suffer from an eating disorder, as well.

Risk Factors for Eating Disorders

Teenage girls and young women are more prone to developing eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia than teenage boys and young men; however, males can also develop eating disorders. Although these disorders can occur across a wide age range, they usually develop in a person’s teens or early 20s.

Additional risk factors for eating disorders include:

  • Family History: Similar to substance use disorders and other types of mental illness, eating disorders are more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings with eating disorders.
  • Dieting and starvation: Risk factors for developing eating disorders also include dieting and starvation. Starvation affects the brain and influences a person’s mood, thoughts, anxiety levels, and appetite. Starvation and weight loss can also perpetuate restrictive eating behaviors, making it difficult to control one’s eating habits.
  • Stress: Unfortunately, stress is a contributing factor to many mental and behavioral disorders. Whether it’s starting college, a new job position, divorce, children, or an undesirable diagnosis, stress can increase your risk of an eating disorder by affecting your mood, thoughts, and behaviors. Individuals who qualify for other risk factors may also be more vulnerable.

If you notice that a family member or friend is showing signs of an eating disorder, consider talking to that person about a professional eating disorder or mental health treatment. At BHOPB, we offer a variety of mental health programs that can treat the underlying causes of eating disorders. Call us now at 561-220-3981 to learn more.


Related Reading:

How to Tell if Your Child Has an Eating Disorder

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