What Are The Factors That Cause People To Become Anorexic?

Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous type of eating disorder characterized by an intense fear of weight gain, extremely restrictive eating habits, and distorted body image perceptions. In this article, we’ll investigate the main causes of anorexia nervosa.

Genetic Composition

Contrary to popular belief, anorexia nervosa is a heritable condition. In fact, the Eating Recovery Center states that between 50 percent and 80 percent of anorexia risk is due to genetic factors. Furthermore, research into the influence of genetics on eating disorders has not only found that anorexia runs in families, but it has also pinpointed specific chromosomes that are linked to an increased occurrence rate of anorexia.

Brain Chemistry

Imbalances in your brain’s neurotransmitter levels may also affect your risk of developing anorexia. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that control a wide range of physical functions, including your body’s appetite, sleep, and stress responses. In extreme cases, imbalanced neurotransmitter levels can lead to increased production of stress hormones and irregular appetite responses. Research suggests that long-term disruption of hormone production can facilitate a range of serious disordered eating habits.

Psychological Factors

Research in the field of psychology has established compelling links between incidences of anorexia nervosa and several high-risk psychological profiles. Broadly speaking, people with clinical depression or anxiety have a higher risk of developing some form of eating disorder. Other behavioral factors may also contribute to the development of anorexia nervosa, including:

  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Perfectionism
  • Impulsivity
  • Trouble building up self-esteem
  • Inability to healthily cope with negative emotions

Cultural Factors

Cultural factors can have a major impact on a person’s susceptibility to developing an eating disorder. We’ve listed five cultural factors underpinning anorexia nervosa:

  • An overemphasis on the importance of dieting.
  • The cultural cultivation of beauty standards that emphasize low body weight and thin body shapes.
  • A culture of celebrity adoration that does nothing to dispel unrealistic body expectations.
  • The cultural equivalence between being an attractive body shape and being successful, healthy, and happy.
  • Mass media or social media messaging that encourages people to be afraid of getting fat or gaining weight.

Environmental Factors

There is no question that your environment can increase or decrease your resilience towards developing anorexia nervosa. For example, if you grew up in a home that consistently reinforced positive body image, there’s a good chance that you are less likely to develop anorexia. In comparison, the following environmental factors will generally increase a person’s chances of developing anorexia nervosa.

  • Frequent clashes with your family or friends.
  • Emotional trauma or a history of abuse.
  • Physical or emotional bullying.
  • Participation as a child in activities that reward thinness (gymnastics, running, modeling).
  • Peer pressure to gain or lose weight.

Sources: U Lifeline, ANRED, National Centre For Eating Disorders, The Good Men Project
Photo: Pexels

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