The Causes of Eating Disorders

by Babs ‘O’ Reilly
(Miami Beach, Florida, USA)

Fashion and culture perpetuate the concept of thinness as beauty but causes of “eating disorders are much more than the fallout of fashion opportunism,” says Trisha Gura, Ph.D., author of the book “Lying in Weight”.

Experts say that one of the factors that lead to eating disorders is the intention to assert power in time of helplessness or powerlessness. Eating disorder can be a voice against insufferable struggle like oppressive authority or a “lifeboat in a storm of transition.”

There are also cases when having eating disorder is biological – a matter of genes craving for thinness. Recent research in the field of genetics reveals that genetic tendencies contribute to eating disorders.

However, this does not mean that environmental factors (fashion and culture) cannot anymore be blamed as reason for a person to develop eating disorder.

Genetic predisposition is the unloaded gun and environmental and cultural are the factors that load the gun and pull the trigger. Genetic trait may have always been around but it takes environmental encouragement to activate the disorder.

Researchers are also looking on certain brain chemistry that affects the urge the person to binge, purge, starve and do compulsive exercises.

Carolyn Costin, in her book “The Eating Disorder Sourcebook” mentions that “the neurotransmitter serotonin (a mood-and-appetite-regulating chemical in the brain) is reduced in anorexia nervosa while reduced serotonin activity persists even after recovery.

Symptoms improve in approximately 50 percent of bulimia nervosa cases through the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil and Zoloft.

Eating disorder usually happens in adolescent years. Teens are the most susceptible to having weight problems as they undergo rapid physical and emotional changes in their lives. Trisha Gura cited a typical pattern for development of eating disorders:

“Stress mounts as new issues come up. The old ways, the ways of a child, cannot solve the new problem. A girl takes the problems out on her body. She reduces the problem to something she can manage – dieting. And for most girls this is where the cycle stops.”

Professor Christopher G. Fairburn, explains the same pattern in his book Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Eating Disorders:

“A woman hates herself; her low self-esteem causes extreme concern about her shape and weight; this in turn, prompts strict dieting. With anorexia it stops here.

With binge eating disorder, the strict dieting leads to binge eating; with bulimia, the binge eating leads to such guilt that it triggers the urge to vomit or purge in some other way.”

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Updated: November 1, 2012 — 8:01 pm

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