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Factors that May Contribute to Eating Disorders

Aug 17, 2007
Eating disorders represent a range of complex afflictions that can difficult to understand. Even health professionals today do not have a complete understanding of eating disorders. Why? Eating disorders are complex because they touch on almost all aspects of an individual's life: they can affect a person's health, psychological well-being, and social life.

Most health professionals agree that eating disorders are caused by a combination of socio-cultural, biological, family, and interpersonal factors. This article provides a brief overview of these different factors that health professionals suspect may be responsible for the onset of an eating disorder in some individuals. Remember, every patient is different, so many of these factors may not come into play for some individuals with eating disorders.

Socio-cultural factors that may precipitate the onset of an eating disorder have to do with the media images presented to the public regarding beauty, health, and weight issues. Even the casual observer can find evidence for the fact that our media culture is obsessed with physical appearance, and issues such as weight loss, slowing the aging process, and the general pursuit of physical perfection. Of course, such perfection is impossible. Many people are not able to achieve the rail-thin standards that are promoted in the media and popular culture. These socio-cultural factors, some experts suggest, may provide the impetus for some individuals who develop eating disorders.

Biological factors that may be responsible for the onset of an eating disorder include a genetic predisposition to certain hormonal imbalances. These include a predisposition to an imbalance in serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is involved in brain function, sleep patterns, and mood. Another biological factor that researchers have identified as possibly contributing to an eating disorder is a propensity in some patients for reduced blood flow to the temporal lobe.

Interpersonal and family factors may also contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. Interpersonal and family factors may include a troubled personal life, including an inability to cope effectively with feelings and personal relationships, a difficulty expressing emotions, substance abuse or alcohol problems, and low self-esteem due to bullying or teasing.

A troubled family life can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Families that are overcritical or put pressure on certain family members to lose weight can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Children often mirror their parent's unhealthy patterns. Parents who magnify the importance of their physical appearance may be unconsciously sending an unhealthy message to their kids. Researchers have found that families with a history of sexual or physical abuse may also be more prone to developing eating disorders.

Other individual factors that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder may include depression, anxiety, and issues related to self-esteem. Also, researchers have found that major life changes can greatly contribute to the onset of eating disorders. Death in the family, change in employment, moving, starting college, the end of a relationship. All of these can trigger the onset of an eating disorder if a person is vulnerable.
About the Author
Scott Meyers is a staff writer for Its Entirely Natural, a resource for helping you achieve a naturally healthy body, mind, and spirit. You may contact our writers through the web site. Follow this link for more information on Eating Disorders.
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