Factors Contributing to Eating Disorders

This week, Imagine Hope is discussing eating disorders and the different ways they manifest.  According to the National Eating Disorders Association, while we don't fully know the exact causes of eating disorders, science is advancing in understanding some of the general issues that can lead to eating disordered behaviors.  While eating disorders may begin with preoccupations about food and/or weight, they are most often about so much more than that.  The behaviors end up being a way that a person uses food in an attempt to compensate for other feelings that might be overwhelming, or to feel "in control" of their life.  Ultimately, however, the behaviors will damage a person's physical and emotional health, self esteem, and sense of competence. So, what are the different factors that contribute to an eating disorder? Psychological Factors

  • Low Self Esteem
  • Feelings of inadequacy or lack of control in life
  • Depression, anxiety, anger or loneliness

Interpersonal Factors

  • Troubled personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
  • History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
  • History of physical or sexual abuse

Social Factors

  • Cultural pressures that glorify "thinness" and place value on obtaining the "perfect body"
  • Narrow definitions of beauty that include only women and men of specific body weights and shapes
  • Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths

Biological Factors

  • Scientists are still researching possible biochemical or biological causes of eating disorders.  In some individuals with eating disorders, certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite and digestion have been found to be unbalanced.  The exact meaning and implications of these imbalances remains under investigation.
  • Eating disorders often run in families.  Current research indicates that there are significant genetic contributions to eating disorders.

Eating disorders are complex conditions that can arise from a variety of potential causes.  Once started, however, they can create a self-perpetuating cycle of physcial and emotional destruction that requires professional help.

Just because someone doesn't meet the criteria for an eating disorder doesn't mean that their relationship with food is healthy.  Since this week's blog ultimately focuses on a person's relationship with food, here are some questions from Lysa Terkeurst's book "Made To Crave" that you can ask yourself as you reflect back on your eating over the past week:  Did I overeat this week on any day?  Did I move more and exercise regularly?  Do I feel lighter than I did this time last week?  Did I eat in secret or out of anger or frustration?  Did I feel that, at any time, I ran to food instead of a Higher Power? While these questions aren't meant to indicate an eating disorder, they can give you direction on the different areas to work on and having a healthier relationship with food overall.

Thank you for reading!

Materials adapted from the National Eating Disorders Association at  www.NationalEatingDisorders.org

and the book  "Made to Crave" by Lysa Terkeurst

Joleen Watson, MS, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling.  Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.