What Are the Different Causes to Eating Disorders?

This article will discuss the main causes to eating disorders so you have a better grasp on the effects that they may have on you or a loved one.

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What Are Some Common Types of Eating of Disorders?

Eating disorders can affect people at any age, and they each bring with them their own set of unique symptoms to watch out for. Due to the many varying causes to eating disorders, taking note of symptoms in either yourself or a loved one is imperative. Some of the common types of eating disorders include:

causes to eating disorders

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Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa typically develops in teens and young adults. It is also more likely to affect women than men. People with anorexia often view themselves as overweight even if they are not. This leads to many unhealthy habits, such as under eating and overexercising.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa often develops during adolescence and early adulthood. It is more common in men than women. People with the disorder will eat an unusually large amount of food at one time. Then, they will purge through vomiting, fasting, laxatives, or excessive exercise.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge eating disorder involves eating large amounts of food rapidly at one time. However, unlike bulimia, there is no purging involved.


Pica is an eating disorder that involves eating things other than food, such as dirt, soil, chalk, soap, paper, and hair. It can occur in adults, children, or adolescents.

Rumination Disorder

This newly recognized eating disorder involves a person regurgitating previously digested food. The individual will re-chew and then either re-swallow it or spit it out. The disorder can develop during infancy, childhood, or adulthood.

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder

This disorder is primarily found in children under the age of seven. Individuals with this disorder will be reluctant to eat certain foods due to a distaste for various tastes, smells, colors, and textures. This can greatly inhibit the individual in getting the nutrients they need to, especially when they are growing.

What Are the Main Causes to Eating Disorders?

There are a variety of possible causes to eating disorders. Some of the main causes to eating disorders developing in an individual include:

Family History

Family history is one of the main contributing causes to eating disorders. Mental health conditions, including eating disorders, can be passed down genetically. So, if you have a close family member who also had an eating disorder, you are more likely to develop one yourself.

Other Mental Disorders

You may develop an eating disorder due to symptoms of another mental health disorder. For example, if you are dealing with stress or anxiety, you may get comfort from food or from the sense of control you get from not eating. People may also develop an eating disorder due to obsessive-compulsive disorder.1


Stress is one of the main causes to eating disorders. When people are stressed, they may overeat for comfort, or they may also refrain from eating because of nervousness. If stress is ongoing, it can develop into an eating disorder.2


Research shows that people with anorexia nervosa have lower levels of serotonin in their brains. As their anorexia develops, their brain responds by producing more serotonin to make up for the deficiency.

So, the more intense the symptoms, the better many individuals feel. If they start to eat again, the brain creates an excess amount of serotonin, which may lead to negative symptoms such as extreme anxiety.3


Dieting is another one of the leading causes to eating disorders. Society often makes individuals feel like they have to look a certain way. This means that many people quickly become at risk of being underweight, anorexic, or of developing other unhealthy eating habits.4

Peer Pressure

It is not uncommon for people to develop eating disorders as a result of peer pressure. A person may start eating out with their friends and may not cut back in other ways, which may lead to weight gain. They may also feel pressured to lose weight as well, either due to friends, family, or society, which can lead to other types of eating disorders.

Societal Pressure

Society is one of the main causes of eating disorders. People often idealize models and actors that are thin. They may look at skinny celebrities and want to be like them. As a result, they may end up losing more weight than they need to.

Body Image Issues

Eating disorders can occur at a young age because people are dissatisfied with their bodies. This can stem from early childhood feeding and eating habits, digestive issues, weight-related teasing, or a fixation with being thin. Individuals with these issues will often develop an eating disorder in some way.
causes to eating disorders

How to Get Help for Eating Disorders at Alternative Options

Eating disorders can negatively affect your quality of life, especially if symptoms go untreated. However, despite the various causes to eating disorders, you don’t have to go through everything by yourself. Treatment is typically a multi-tiered approach that includes:


The therapist will determine the potential causes to eating disorders and address them at their root. They will provide a variety of treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy, self-esteem or body image groups, family therapy, and more.

Nutritional Education

Specialists will work with the patient to educate them about proper nutrition and work out a healthy dietary routine.


Medication may be necessary to treat underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety.

Genetic/Diagnostic Testing

Physical testing is often necessary to rule out the possibility that weight loss and weight gain are not due to an underlying medical condition.

Experience Unconditional Support from Alternative Options

If you are dealing with an eating disorder, Alternative Options can help. We understand the complexities that you or a loved one may be facing. We can help you address the causes of eating disorders, which may include physical, behavioral, and emotional components.

Our experienced, multi-disciplinary staff includes specialists, registered dieticians, and psychiatrists. We will collaborate with your doctor to come up with a plan that is best suited to your needs. Don’t suffer from your eating disorder alone. Contact Alternative Options for the care you need. We will help you move on to a happier, healthier existence.

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