Eating Disorders are one of the most varied categories of Mental Health Conditions. With many different types of disorders affecting individuals across all demographics, it is easy to see why there is such a wide range of risk factors associated with Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and other Eating Disorders.
No two people present with the same exact symptoms of Eating Disorders in clinical settings. However, by understanding the multitude of biological, psychological, and social factors that contribute to various Eating Disorders, Licensed Clinical Psychologists can learn more about the root causes behind client conditions suffering from Eating Disorders. This information helps create more effective evidence-based treatments, customize tailored measures, and interventions designed to treat those battling Eating Disorders. Gain a deeper understanding about some of the common risk factors that contribute to Eating Disorders with this overview.
Mental Health and Comorbid Disorders
There are many underlying Mental Health Disorders that can contribute to the development or exacerbation of Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder, and other Eating Disorders.
One common example is the relationship between Anxiety Disorders, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Traumas, Personality Disorders, and Eating Disorders. Individuals with an Anxiety Disorder or Bipolar Disorder often feel as if they have little to no control over their daily lives. The intense feelings of stress, fear, and dread that come from Anxiety cause them to feel that things are spiralling around them and that they have no stability. Turning toward drastic eating behaviors—such as self-starvation, binging, or purging—is a tempting way to reclaim feelings of control even though these behaviors harm the body and mind.
Other Mental Health Disorders that frequently coincide with Eating Disorders include:
- Depressive Disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Personality Disorders
You cannot treat comorbid Mental Health Disorders without also treating the Eating Disorder at the root of the issues. It is crucial to work with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist who will address how these comorbid disorders intertwine and influence each other by creating a comprehensive, tailored, and effective treatment approach based on scientific and evidence-based treatment modalities.
Stress and Life Changes
As we mentioned above, many people turn to disordered eating habits in a misguided attempt to regain a sense of control over their lives. This is often true in the case of people with comorbid Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder, and Eating Disorders. However, it can also be true for those undergoing extreme life changes, emotional distress, trauma, and other similar circumstances. Even normal life events such as moving, changing jobs, ending a relationship, or mourning the death of a loved one can turn some toward disordered eating. These habits can also stem from traumatic experiences such as abuse or assault.
Genetics and Family History
As is the case with many Mental Health Disorders, genetics are a common risk factor that contributes to Eating Disorders. Individuals who have a family history of Eating Disorders are more likely to develop one themselves. Furthermore, personality types or chemical imbalances that affect hunger and appetite can pass through family lines. These traits can make one more susceptible to Eating Disorders.
It is also important to note that, for some people, disordered eating behaviors are a product of nurture rather than nature. Growing up with a parent or sibling who practices self-starvation, follows intense and unhealthy diets, overexercises, or binges and purges can influence your own self-image and relationship with food. Seeing these unhealthy behaviors in loved ones, especially at a young age, increases your risk of adopting these practices in your own life and developing an Eating Disorder as a result. Childhood insecure attachment and traumas can be a main contributing factor to developing Eating Disorders, Anxiety Disorders, and other Addictions.
Personality traits are often a defining factor of mental well-being—or lack thereof. These traits influence your relationship with yourself, the way you see and understand others, and how you interact with the world around you.
There are certain personality traits that make you more susceptible to Eating Disorders and other Mental Health Disorders. For example, low self-esteem can cause you to develop disordered eating habits in a maladaptive attempt to improve yourself and your body image.
Difficulty maintaining close relationships, letting yourself be vulnerable, or expressing emotions can also lead to isolation, anxiety, and feelings of inadequacy that lead to the development of an Eating Disorder. Other personality traits that can contribute to Eating Disorders include impulsiveness, obsession, and perfectionism.
Many modern cultures place a positive emphasis on weight loss. Successfully lowering your weight can garner encouragement, compliments, and positivity from loved ones and strangers alike. Much of today’s ever-present diet culture prioritizes weight loss over actual healthy meals and habits. Fixating on losing weight without any real focus on physical health leads to habits such as counting calories, skipping meals, and other practices that lead to self-starvation and Anorexia Nervosa.
This is just one example of how excessive dieting can set the foundation for Eating Disorders. Furthermore, the encouragement to lose weight, followed by positive feedback once you do lose weight, creates a negative cycle that continuously encourages the development and pursuit of disordered eating behaviors.
Eating Disorders are more common among women than they are among men. There are many reasons why this might be the case, including biological factors that put women at greater genetic risk and societal factors that put more pressure on women to maintain a certain weight. Statistically speaking, women are also more likely to receive diagnoses for potential comorbid disorders such as PTSD, Anxiety Disorders, and Depressive Disorders. These factors put women at greater risk of developing an Eating Disorder.
Men’s Experiences With Eating Disorders
Even though Eating Disorders are more common among women, it is important to note that many men experience these disorders, too. However, there are often gendered differences between men’s and women’s experiences with Eating Disorders. Men are more likely to face pressure from peers, family, media, and other sources to become muscular rather than thin.
Instead of binging and/or purging, men are more likely to follow strict diets, overexercise, or use steroids to increase muscle mass. Like all behaviors associated with Eating Disorders, these habits are damaging to both physical and mental health.
If you are looking for a Licensed Clinical Psychologist for Eating Disorder treatment, turn to Dr. Blair and the team at Blair Wellness Group. Our expert services offer the help you need to heal from your Eating Disorder and improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Contact us today to learn more about our evidence-based treatment modalities and start your own customized treatment plan.