What is an eating disorder?

What causes an eating disorder?

Causes and Risks
Eating Disorders are very complex illnesses. We still don’t fully understand what causes them. Many things are involved, including a person’s personality, mental health, genetic and biological factors, and social environment. The reasons are different for each person.

Some risk factors for developing an eating disorder are:

  • a need to be perfect
  • low self-esteem
  • poor body image
  • social pressure to be thin
  • problems coping and dealing with stress
  • bullying
  • having few or no friends
  • abuse or trauma
  • neglect
  • taking part in a sport or activity that puts a lot of emphasis on weight or size (modeling, ballet, gymnastics, wrestling)
  • type 1 diabetes

Even though we don’t understand all the causes of eating disorders, we can still effectively treat them. There is evidence to show that many therapies reduce eating disorder symptoms. These therapies focus on the factors that contribute to eating problems rather than the “root cause”. Visit the treatment section to learn more about the different types of treatment for eating disorders.

“I had so many overwhelming feelings at this time in my life, and no idea what to do with them. Bingeing and purging was a temporary release for me, although I realize now that each bulimic episode was only intensifying my feelings.” ~Sara

Eating Disorders and the Media

mediaThe message in the media is “thin is beautiful.” Movies, television, and magazines are full of models that are underweight. We are constantly exposed to the “thin ideal” and that can play a role in the development of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating. But, eating disorders are complex, and social or cultural factors alone are not enough to cause eating disorders.

Resource List

  • Digital and Media Literacy: Body Image ( English )
Types Of Disorders: How do I know if I have an eating disorder?

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