What Causes All Eating Disorders?

What Causes All Eating Disorders?

What Causes All Eating Disorders?

(Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating)

Eating Disorders may begin with preoccupation with food and weight. However, they are most often about much more than food. People (both male and female) with eating disorders often use food and the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem over-whelming. For some, dieting, bingeing and purging (remove something undesirable) may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of one’s life, ultimately, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem, and sense of competence and control. In addition, the way a person views their body, also known as Body Image, may put someone at greater risk of developing an eating disorder. Some people think they are too fat, too thin, or not muscular enough. People who are unhappy with their bodies may take extreme measures to change their weight. This is not only unhealthy, but very dangerous.

  • Low self-esteem
  • Lack of control in life
  • Depression, Anxiety, Anger and Loneliness
  • Troubled family and personal relationships
  • Difficulty expressing emotions and feelings
  • History of being teased or ridiculed based on size or weight
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Cultural pressures that glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body”
  • Cultural norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths
  • Scientists are still researching possible biochemical 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. However, this remains under investigation.

Preventing an eating disorder starts with developing a Positive Body Image

  • All bodies come in different shapes and sizes. Your body depends on things such as gender and heredity, things that you cannot control.
  • Focus on what you like about yourself.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to unrealistic ideals.
  • Spend time with people like an appreciate you.
  • Show that you value yourself by taking care of your body and mind. Eat well, get plenty of rest and exercise, and do things that you enjoy.


A serious and potentially life threatening eating disorder characterized by self-starvation and excessive weight loss. This is often characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight.

Warning Signs/Symptoms of Anorexia:

  • Dramatic weight loss
  • Preoccupation with weight, food, calories, fat grams, and dieting
  • Refusal to eat certain foods, progressing restrictions against whole categories of food (example no carbohydrates)
  • Frequent comments about feeling “fat” or overweight despite weight loss
  • Anxiety about gaining weight or being “fat”
  • Denial of hunger
  • Development of food rituals (example eating foods in certain orders, excessive chewing, or rearranging food on a plate)
  • Consistent excuses to avoid mealtimes or situations involving food
  • Excessive, rigid exercise regimen – the need to “burn off” calories taken in
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns

Health Consequences:

Anorexia involves self-starvation. The body is denied the essential nutrients its needs to function normally, so it is forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy. This “slowing down” can have serious medical consequences:

  • Abnormally slow heart rate and low blood pressure. The risk for heart failure rises as heart rate and blood pressure levels sink lower and lower.
  • Reduction of bone density (osteoporosis), which results in dry, brittle bones
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Severe dehydration, which can result in kidney failure
  • Fainting, fatigue, and overall weakness
  • Dry hair and skin, hair loss is common
  • Growth of a downy layer of hair called lanugo all over the body, including the face, in an effort to keep the body warm


Bulimia Nervosa is a serious, potentially life-threatening eating disorder characterized by a cycle of bingeing and behaviors such as self- induced vomiting (purging) designed to undo the effects of binge eating.

Warning Signs/Symptoms of Bulimia:

  • Regular intake of large amounts of food accompanied by a sense of loss of control over eating behavior
  • Regular use of inappropriate behaviors such as self-induced vomiting, laxative, or diuretic abuse, fasting, and/or obsessive or compulsive exercise
  • Extreme concern with body weight and shape
  • Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time or the existence of wrappers and containers indicating the consumption of large amounts of food
  • Evidence of purging (getting rid of), including frequent trips to the bathroom after meals, signs or smells of vomiting, presence of wrappers or packages of laxatives or diuretics
  • Excessive rigid exercise regimen
  • Calluses on the back of the hands and knuckles from vomiting
  • Discoloration or staining of the teeth
  • Creation of lifestyle schedules or rituals to make time for binge and purge sessions.
  • Withdrawal from usual friends and activities
  • Behaviors and attitudes indicating that weight loss, dieting, and control of food are becoming primary concerns

Health Consequences:

Bulimia can be extremely harmful to the body. The recurrent binge and purge cycles can damage the entire digestive system and purge behaviors can lead to electrolyte and chemical imbalances in the body that affect the heart and other major organ functions.

  • Electrolyte imbalances that can lead to irregular heartbeats and possibly heart failure and death. Electrolyte imbalances is caused by dehydration and loss of potassium and sodium from the body as a result of purging behaviors
  • Inflammation and possible rupture of the esophagus from frequent vomiting
  • Tooth decay and staining from stomach acids released during frequent vomiting

Binge Eating Disorder

People with binge eating often eat an unusually large amount of food and feel out of control. Unlike anorexia or bulimia, binge eaters do not throw up their food, exercise a lot, or eat only small amounts of certain foods. They often times continue eating even when they are not hungry. Binge eaters are often overweight and obese.

Warning Signs/Symptoms of Binge Eating:

  • Frequent episodes of eating large quantities of food in short periods of time
  • Feeling out of control over eating behavior
  • Feeling ashamed or disgusted by the behavior
  • Eating when not hungry
  • Eating in secret

Health Consequences of Binge Eating Disorder:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol levels
  • Heart Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease