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Root Causes of Eating Disorders

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causes of eating disordersMany 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.

What We Treat


Futures offers an integrated multidisciplinary approach for treating those suffering from drug or alcohol addictions as well as those with addiction and underlying co-occurring disorders.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help


  • Personalized Care
  • Safe and Comfortable Medical Detoxification
  • Comprehensive Introduction to Adherent DBT
  • Intensive Clinically Based Program
  • Luxury Accommodations and Amenities
  • Experienced, Educated and Compassionate Staff
  • Individualized Life Coaching Sessions
  • Extensive Continuing Care
  • Experiential and Cognitive Therapies
  • 24 – Hour Medical Care
  • Private Bedrooms / Private Baths
  • A Healing, Process-Oriented Family Program

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Suggested Causes

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
  • Anxiety
  • Obsession with appearance
  • Emotional to an unmanageable degree
  • Poor social skills
  • Perfectionism

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:

  • Stress
  • Family history
  • Abuse
  • 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.

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  • Over 16 Private Treatment Sessions/Mo.
  • 12-Month Aftercare Program
  • 5-Star Accommodations
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What is CARF? — The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) is a nonprofit and independent accreditor of health and human services.

What Does CARF Do? — CARF helps treatment centers achieve internationally recognized standards by working with them to improve the quality and value of their services.

The Accreditation Process — CARF conducts an on-site survey to evaluate the business and service standards of a facility. Then a facility must submit a Quality Improvement Plan (QIP) to address areas of improvement.

Why Futures is Accredited:

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