There is no sole cause of anorexia. For most who are impacted, a combination of several contributing factors – mainly biological, genetic and environmental – can influence the development of anorexia and associated symptoms. The exact root of the disorder is different for every person.
Biological Causes of Anorexia
Many experts view anorexia as a biological illness of starvation, in which the starvation leads to malnutrition, which then results in the psychological symptoms associated with the disorder. Additional studies hint at deeper biological roots. Gray matter deficits in brain areas involved in emotion, motivation and goal-directed behavior have been reported. Other evidence shows the restricting behaviors associated with anorexia may stem from an imbalance between inhibitory and reward systems, which can lead to a shift in compulsive behavior.
Environmental Causes of Anorexia
Much attention has been placed on society and its promotion of a culture of thinness or “the ideal body,” often amplified through media and social networks. Further, pressures from home life, relationships with parents and/or peers or comments on body weight and appearance – although sometimes unintentional – can have a profound impact on individuals already susceptible to developing an eating disorder. Many with anorexia report experiencing harsh and extreme criticism related to their weight and appearance.
Emotional Causes of Anorexia
There can be a strong correlation between anorexia and specific personality traits, including perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness, rigidity and vulnerability to peer pressure.
Genetics and Family History
Studies in recent years have shown a possible link between anorexia and genetics. While not everyone whose parent or sibling has or had anorexia will experience it, studies have shown that the heritability of anorexia can range from 28%-74%, according to a study published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
Other Predisposing Factors Involved with Anorexia
Other predisposing factors include trauma, substance abuse, and sexual or physical abuse.
Anorexia is frequently seen in occupations that place a great emphasis on body shape, appearance and weight, such as modeling, acting and competitive sports.
The presence of several co-occurring disorders can also lead to onset of anorexia, including mood and anxiety disorders, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and others.
Visit our main anorexia information page to learn more about anorexia or read our blog posts about anorexia to learn more about anorexia symptoms, treatment and more.
If You Are Ready to Regain Your Life, Walden Can Help.
If you are concerned that you – or a loved one – may have an eating disorder, we are here to help. Please call 781-647-6727 to speak with a Walden eating disorders intake specialist, or complete the form on this page, to start the road to recovery.