Eating disorders are powerful forces that can prove difficult to stop. People affected by them often don’t know how to differentiate between themselves and the disorder. And while eating disorders are all about food – whether that means controlling what you eat, bingeing, purging, or dieting chronically, the actual causes and onset of them are really not about the food itself. Rather, food becomes a strategy to manage some inner turmoil or severe stress that someone is experiencing. In fact, for some, food can feel safer than the people in their lives. Each eating disorder is unique and needs to be managed and treated as such. This is why eating disorders can be so insidious and complicated to treat.
What then are the causes an eating disorder? Well, there are many things that can trigger someone to develop an eating disorder. One category of risk is genetic as eating disorders are not only psychological, but biological in nature as well. Specific genetic variations that change the metabolism of certain nutrients have been discovered and these can lead to a statistically higher predisposition for an eating disorder. In fact, having family members with any affective disorder or ones who experience anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, or depression, all hold genetic ties that are linked to increased risk. In a Harvard Health study from 2019, it was found that genes can account for between 25 to 80 percent of a person being overweight. While other studies find genetic links to other types of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. It is so important then, that we not judge people for their struggle, as well as acknowledge and understand that part of a person’s struggle might be inherited. Each person’s battle is distinct.
There are many other risk factors as well, and these will be discussed in future posts.