An eating disorder can be defined as a psychological condition characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior. The causes include several complex and interwoven biological, psychological, and social factors.
An eating disorder is characterized by extreme changes in eating behavior such as overeating, extremely reduced food intake due to extreme distress, or a persistent fear of weight gain. A person with an eating disorder tends to eat very less, or unusually excess amounts of food. Such disorders usually co-exist with psychological disorders such as anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse.
The major types of eating disorders are bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) is another type which is characterized by several variations in eating behavior. Such disorders are more common during adolescence or young childhood. Women and girls are more likely to develop these disorders.
Causes of Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are a result of several biological, psychological, and social factors. Cultural and family pressures, as well as personality and emotional disorders also contribute to the development of eating disorders. Some of these have been listed below:
- Major life transitions: Many people are not able to cope with some major changes in life. Some transitions such as entering high school or college, puberty, major illness, or death of a beloved can make them feel depressed. As a result, they start eating excessively, or deny food.
- Emotional and psychological health: Several emotional and psychological problems can contribute to the development of eating disorders. Such people may have perfectionism, low self-esteem, difficulty in anger management, impulsive behavior, family conflicts, and troubled relationships.
- Biological problems: Some people are genetically susceptible to develop eating disorders. Serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical in the brain, influences eating behavior, as it is involved in the regulation of food intake.
- Sociocultural problems: Most people who develop eating disorders are found to be going through a painful experience of being teased about their obesity. Such people may face embarrassing situations. As a result they take hard efforts for weight loss, ultimately falling prey to eating disorders.
- Traumatic events: People with eating disorders can have a history of physical or sexual abuse. Such people tend to lose weight, to lose their secondary sexual characteristics, so that they can avoid further sexual attention.
Some of the key risk factors are gender, age, family and cultural influence, emotional instability, dieting, and society. Teenage girls and young women are more likely to develop eating disorders. Excessive dieting for the sake of weight loss and the perfect figure, may also contribute to the same.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.