Many family members seeking to better understand what their loved one living with an eating disorder is facing want to explore the root cause of the issue. How did it happen? Was it preventable? How is it treated? And most importantly, is there hope for a future that isn’t defined by disordered eating habits?
An estimated 11 to 13 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder. But the good news is that there is hope. Here at Futures, we provide an in-depth treatment program designed to address the food habits and underlying mental health symptoms that drive them. Call now for more information.
Most authorities agree that each of these disorders usually has an underlying cause related to anxiety, depression, or other emotional disturbance. Studies have shown that eating disorder sufferers share certain basic traits, among them:
- Poor self-esteem
- Feelings of inadequacy and helplessness
- Obsession with appearance
- Emotional to an unmanageable degree
- Poor social skills
While identifying common factors such as these help us to understand those with eating disorders, it does not get us very far in understanding the root cause. Some possibilities along those lines are as follows:
- Family history
- Cultural obsession with beauty
- Pubescent response to natural maturation
- Athletic requirements
Experts agree that each of these factors likely plays a role in a person’s development of an eating disorder. After all, life in a high-pressure society induces stress, and some people may attempt to deal with this by eating. At the same time, the society’s emphasis on thinness and physical appearance – combined with shame – may cause the same person to purge after her binge episodes. Young girls may misunderstand their natural weight gain during puberty, and boys may struggle to meet weight requirements in their chosen sports. It is easy to see how these factors can ultimately lead to an eating disorder.
Yet the question remains: Why do some people develop eating disorders while others, in the same environments, participating in the same sports and activities, and being subjected to the same cultural influences, do not?
A Partial Answer
At least a partial answer seems to be in genetics. A study in 2000 by a group of scientists and physicians led by Dr. Tracey D. Wade and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that 60 percent – and perhaps as much as 85 percent – of a person’s risk of developing anorexia nervosa was dependent upon genetics. A more recent study in 2010 led by Dr. Hakon Hakonarson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia confirmed these findings. Dr. Hakonarson’s article appeared in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in 2011.
This is not to say that environmental factors are not important or even necessary for eating disorders to appear. They are not, however, sufficient in and of themselves, and the disorders often require that individuals have a genetic predisposition.
Whatever the Cause, Treatment Is the Solution
An individual can develop a dangerous eating disorder in many ways. While it’s important to understand the underlying issues in order to address them and heal on all levels during treatment, the all-important first step is to enroll in a treatment program that is comprehensive in its resources and care options as well as evidence-based. That’s where we come in. If you are, or a loved one is, suffering from an eating disorder, please call the number above. We, at Futures, are here to help.