Eating disorders is arguably the most dangerous form of mental illness. The disease can affect people of every creed, race, ethnicity and age. However, the single specific factor which contributes to the manifestation of eating disorders is still unknown. Nevertheless, historical data and studies have narrowed down the factors somewhat – we know of the combination of factors which causes eating disorders.1. Socio-cultural causes of eating disorders
Interestingly, culture plays a significant role in the onset of eating disorders. Cultures which demonstrate a preference for slim body types, common in most Western countries, have higher rates of such disorders. Conversely, cultures which equate high body mass with prosperity and fertility, have demonstrably lower rates of eating disorders. It is clear that societal expectations of beauty and fitness are creating psychological issues leading to eating disorders.
The internalisation of the Western beauty ideal - slender and buxomy for females, and lean and muscular for males – in other cultures has also contributed to body image issues in foreign cultures.
There is a growing body of evidence which demonstrates that eating disorders possess common genetic factors. For one thing, there is a link between family members and relatives who suffer from the disease. Moreover, there are shared commonalities between related patients involving genes responsible for biological systems such as metabolism, hedonic hotspots (pleasure centres) responses, size, appetite and mood. Co-occurring disorders such as alcohol or substance abuse are also usually seen between genetically related patients. Nevertheless, no assumptions can be made at this stage owing to scarcity of hard data - and because genetics is a fast evolving discipline of science.
Celiac diseases can lead to aversions to certain foods. Image courtesy of Danielle Helm3. Psychological causes of eating disorders
Studies have identified several co-occurring disorders and personality traits which contribute to the manifestation of eating disorders. These psychological issues include:
Often time, the co-occurring disorders will feed on themselves which will exacerbate the eating disorders, leading to a vicious cycle which will become progressively more extreme.4. Other factors causing eating disorders
Other uncategorised factors which contribute to the development of eating disorders include
It’s not all doom and gloom though; eating disorders are very treatable, especially for younger patients.