Eating Disorders

What Causes Anorexia?

People who suffer from the eating disorder anorexia nervosa have a fear of gaining weight that causes them to avoid food in unhealthy ways. The disorder most often begins in adolescence or early adulthood and affects about 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men in the U.S. If untreated, the disorder can cause side effects that include brain damage, heart damage, multiple organ failure, and muscle wasting. What causes this serious disorder?


Scientists still don’t exactly know the cause of anorexia nervosa, but one clue is that a person is more likely to suffer from it if they have a family member who has an eating disorder, even if the family member has a different maladaptive eating pattern. Heredity appears to play some role in eating disorders.


Temperament can also be a clue to the cause of eating disorders. Many who people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or both shared these characteristics as children: They were anxious, achievement-oriented, perfectionistic, and obsessive.


The brain’s reward system, which the human body shares with many other species in the animal kingdom, functions in an atypical way in people diagnosed with anorexia. The neurotransmitter dopamine, for example, has been shown to be overactive in women with anorexia. When most people see a meal on the table, they react with anticipation. People with anorexia see a meal on the table and their brains release dopamine, causing their anxiety levels to rise. These people report feeling worried when they see food.


Structures of the brain are also altered in people with anorexia. A region of brain called the dorsal striatum, which has to do with habitual behaviors, is different in women with anorexia than in healthy women. (Most scientific studies of anorexia nervosa are done on female volunteers since the disorder affects more women than men.)


The right insula, a region of the brain that helps process bodily sensations including taste sensations, is also altered in the brain scans of anorexia patients. Visceral hypersensitivity, a condition in which the right insula is atypical and people have an unusually intense focus on sensations inside their own bodies, may be correlated with anorexia. The condition is thought to distract people from their other normal, daily activities and force them to focus on what’s going on inside their own bodies. Some researchers think anorexia might be a kind of maladaptive coping mechanism in which patients try to “mute” their internal body processes by restricting food.


Researchers are still not sure whether some of these biological differences in people with anorexia are characteristics that make people more likely to develop the condition or whether some of these are effects of the disorder. Better understanding of the causes of anorexia nervosa may someday lead to more effective treatment options.

Eating Disorders

4 Causes for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses. They require much more psychological and emotional treatment to be conquered. Studies have shown that one in every fifty children in America will deal with them at some point. Let’s take a look at four of the most common causes of eating disorders.

1. Stress.

We live in a very high-pressure, fast-paced society. There is a lot of pressure on everyone — especially women. We are not always taught how to communicate well or how to handle our emotions. Developing an eating disorder can sometimes be the result of unhealthy ways to deal with stress.

2. Family.

People who develop eating disorders can be greatly affected by the attitudes of their parents. If a mother or father has an unhealthy relationship with food, that can easily be passed down to a child. A recent study found that 40% of girls who stated they were on a diet were doing so because their mothers told them to.

3. Abuse.

A vast number of women or girls who seek treatment for eating disorders have been victims of physical or sexual abuse at some point in their lives. These traumatic events may manifest as depression, anxiety, or eating disorders. And this is definitely something that recent studies have confirmed.

4. Society.

In today’s world, we are bombarded with images of the “ideal” person every day. We see tons of skinny models. We see perfect muscle-bound men. We see people that have been photoshopped to look like unattainable perfection. This can greatly damage our self-esteem and body image, which can often lead to eating disorders.

These are just some of the causes of eating disorders. Regardless of the cause of your eating disorder, if you are suffering from one, it is essential that you seek treatment. Help is available to you if you are willing to receive it.

Eating Disorders

5 Myths About Eating Disorders

There are numerous myths about eating disorders that everyone believes. These myths can make it difficult for those who are suffering from eating disorders to get help. Here are five of the biggest ones.

1. All people with eating disorders are underweight.

Most people who suffer from anorexia are underweight. That’s true. However, the majority of people who have eating disorders are actually a normal weight. Body weight does not determine whether or not someone has an eating disorder.

2. Eating disorders only occur among teenage girls.

Eating disorders can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. There was an increase in eating disorder among middle-aged women between 2001 and 2010, according to The Ranch, an eating disorder treatment center.

3. Eating disorders are a phase.

Eating disorders are not a phase. They are a serious mental health disorder. They usually coincide with another serious mental illness like anxiety or depression.

4. The only type of eating disorder that can be deadly is anorexia nervosa.

Every type of eating disorder can lead to a premature death if it is left untreated. This includes anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and all other unspecified eating disorders. It is more than possible, though, to recover from an eating disorder if you are willing to get help.

5. Eating disorders are just about food.

Eating disorders do not just disappear without treatment. An eating disorder cannot be cured by just eating. Those who suffer from eating disorders have developed the disorder as a way to cope with stress and negative emotions. In order to treat the eating disorder, these things must also be treated so that the sufferer can find healthy ways to cope.

Now that you understand the misconceptions about eating disorders, you have a better understanding of the reasons it may be difficult for some to ask for help.