Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors of Eating Disorders

The causes of eating disorders are not completely known, although research has shown that eating disorders are often influenced or aggravated by a range of emotional and social factors, including:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Feelings of inadequacy and helplessness
  • Difficult personal relationships
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • History of bullying, particularly due to weight or physical appearance
  • Intense societal or family expectations related to physical appearance

Certain factors can increase an individuals' risk of developing an eating disorder, including:

  • Gender: Women are far more likely to have an eating disorder than men.
  • Age: Eating disorders are most common in the late teens and early 20s.
  • Family history: If you have a parent or sibling with an eating disorder, you are more likely to have one yourself.
  • Mental health issues: Eating disorders are more common among people with anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression.
  • Stress: Situations or relationships that cause stress can cause an eating disorder.
  • Activities and interests: Certain fields of interest place a higher value on staying slim and can contribute to the development of eating disorders, such as modeling, dance and athletics.