Help for Anorexia and Bulimia and All Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center

International Eating Disorder Referral Organization


McCallum Place and Eating Disorder Treatment


What Causes One to Develop an Eating Disorder?

Psychological Factors:

1. Low self-esteem appears to represent a significant risk factor for the development of eating pathology.

2. Tendencies to be perfectionistic and to set rigid standards for oneself.

3. Depression, anxiety, anger, emptiness or loneliness.

4. Feelings of lack of control in life or feelings of inadequacy.


Sociocultural Factors:

1. Cultural pressures that place extreme value on "thinness" and obtaining the "perfect body."

2. Cultural norms that place emphasis on physical appearance and not one inner strengths and qualities.

3. Definitions of beauty that are extremely narrow and include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes.

4. Persistent and pervasive media messages encouraging dieting likely lead to high rates of chronic dieting in at-risk groups of adolescents.


Interpersonal Factors:

1. Difficulty expressing ones feelings and emotions.

2. Family disharmony and troubled interpersonal relationships.

3. A history of being ridiculed based on size or weight.

4. A history of sexual and/or physical abuse.

5. Family factors such as obesity in the family, parental preoccupation with eating and weight, unrealistic expectations for achievement.


Biological and Biochemical Factors:

Researchers are still examining potential biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders. It has been found that some eating disorder sufferers have imbalances in certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion. Investigation into the implications of these imbalances is still underway.


Seek Help: Eating disorders arise from a variety of causes. They create a self-perpetuating cycle of physical and emotional destruction. All eating disorders require professional help.



Dept. of Health and Human Services. Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia.

Also adapted from EDAP, Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention,

Costin, Carolyn, Handout, Risk Factors, Defining Characteristics.


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*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care.  It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.



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