by Barbara Rodgers
(Miami, Florida, USA)
The well known causes of eating disorders are numerous and usually hard to determine. The general categories of causes are media factors, biological factors, family influences, culture, social influences, and psychological factors.
In most cases a combination of factors from these categories can cause eating disorders, which is the reason the causes are really hard to pinpoint.
Recent research in the field of genetics shows that over 50% of the risk for anorexia nervosa can be contributed to genetic factors. Research about bulimia and binge eating are currently in progress.
Certain personality types have shown to be more susceptible to eating disorders, and for the most part, personality and temperament seem to be genetically determined.
For example, people with obsessive compulsive disorder have a higher rate of eating disorders. Research has also shown that people are more likely to develop an eating disorder if a mother or sister also has an eating disorder.
Perfectionists are extremely likely to develop an eating disorder. Perfectionists place unrealistic and unachievable goals on themselves. They ignore everything they have achieved and only see themselves as inadequate or worthless.
So if a perfectionist gets the idea that thinner is better you can see how the progression could take them all the way to a hospital bed.
Families that are overprotective and sheltering can foster eating disorders. When a mother or father puts extra emphasis on physical appearance, even if it is not directed at the child, also puts children at risk for eating disorders.
Pressure put on by parents to strive for success and perfection can lead children to conceal doubts and worries. This also makes the children try to gain some type of control in their life by manipulating their food intake and weight.
A group of friends or an organization a person is involved in can also lead to eating disorders. With the emotion involved in a romantic relationship it is easy to see how a person can feel pressured into trying to become thinner to satisfy the other.
Appearance obsessed friends, and pressures put on by organizations that idolize thinness can lead to eating disorders. Common organizations or groups that enjoy thinness are dance and theatre clubs, sororities, certain school cliques, and cross country running teams.
In western cultures, thinness, especially for women, is promoted as ideal. It has been proven that people tend to imitate role models. In western cultures, models and actresses, who are often times unrealistically thin, are commonly looked up to by teenagers as ideal people.
Eating disorders, whatever their cause, can be scary, so if you or someone you know is battling an eating problem, seek help as soon as possible.
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