Etiology of Eating Disorders

Many different factors influence the development of eating disorders.

Biological Factors

Some evidence suggests a genetic vulnerability to eating disorders:

  • Identical twins are more likely to both suffer from an eating disorder than are fraternal twins.
  • Biological relatives of people with bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa appear to have an increased risk of developing the disorders.

Personality Factors

Some researchers have noted that people with eating disorders are more likely to have certain personality traits:

  • People with anorexia nervosa tend to be obsessive, rigid, neurotic, and emotionally inhibited.
  • People with bulimia nervosa tend to be impulsive and oversensitive and have poor self-esteem.

Cultural Factors

Cultural factors strongly influence the onset of eating disorders. One example is the high value placed on thinness in industrial countries.

Family Influences

Family environment may also influence the onset of eating disorders:

  • Some theorists have suggested that eating disorders are related to insufficient autonomy within the family.
  • Others have proposed that eating disorders might be affected by mothers who place too much emphasis on body weight.

Cognitive Factors

People with eating disorders show distortions of thinking, such as the tendency to think in rigid all-or-none terms. It is unclear whether this type of thinking causes the eating disorders or results from the eating disorders.

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