Anorexia is an eating disorder that affects millions of people. It occurs when a person is unwilling to consume a sufficient amount of calories necessary to keep his or her body weight at a healthy level. Those who suffer from anorexia not only struggle with atypical patterns of eating, but also with an inaccurate view around their body weight, shape, and size. Each person’s struggle with anorexia looks different, and in the same respect, the causes of anorexia vary from person to person.

HPA/LiveWell offers an intensive outpatient eating disorder treatment program at both our Albany, NY and Poughkeepsie, NY locations, designed to treat those suffering with anorexia.

Causes of Anorexia

Due to the complex nature of eating disorders, and more specifically anorexia, finding the primary cause is difficult. Yet as the scope of eating disorder research continues to expand, there is increased understanding of the causes of eating disorders. Even though what causes anorexia is not fully understood, research does point to a combination of psychological, biological, familial, and cultural factors.

Psychological Causes of Anorexia:

An increasing number of links between psychological factors and eating disorders are being established. This means eating disorders, and more specifically anorexia, could be viewed as a symptom of other psychological concern.

Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a psychological factor which goes beyond one trying to do his or her best, or obtaining a certain level of achievement. Perfectionism is a distressing psychological condition and personality trait that causes extreme stress in individuals. The stress often stems from unrealistic expectations the individual places on himself or herself. Perfectionism is often a precursor to anorexia, and is understood through the intense “need” for control over one’s body shape, size, and weight.

Low self-esteem

Another contributor to this condition can be a sense of low self-esteem which presents itself in the form of a negative view of one’s body image and how one sees themselves. Self-esteem and a poor sense of body image are often closely related, and both tend to be risk factors for the development of an eating disorder. Individuals with low self-esteem often have an unhealthy view of themselves resulting in extreme self-criticism. This self-criticism is often the reason people go to extreme lengths to change/alter their appearance, which may lead to the beginnings of anorexia.

Mental Health Diagnoses

When identifying causes of eating disorders, looking at them from a biological standpoint is important. In fact, eating disorder statistics are showing more and more evidence of a genetic component when exploring the causes of eating disorders. Several studies have been done that link mental health disorders, such as major depressive and anxiety disorders, to the development of anorexia. (You can read more about this here.)

Biological Causes of Anorexia

Identifying the correlation between biological components and eating disorders appear to be somewhat lacking in terms of research. Yet, there are findings that show significant prevalence of brain chemical imbalance amongst individuals with anorexia. When brain chemical imbalances occur there is a substantial connection between the disease and the areas that control hunger/fullness cues and digestion. Beyond brain chemistry, there is other evidence for biological causes of eating disorders including hormone and chromosome abnormalities.

Familial Causes of Anorexia

Family plays a huge role in most people’s lives, including whether or not there is any predisposition to certain health and mental diagnoses. Factors such as familial obesity, or preoccupation with weight and diet can increase one’s chances of developing an eating disorder. Additionally, eating disorders can run in families; as it may be a learned behavior. A person from a family where a family member has suffered from anorexia may become more predisposed to developing the disease. As explained by the Academy for Eating Disorders, the heritability factor seems possible based on research of anorexia statistics. In addition, there are other factors that may lead to the development of anorexia, such as unrealistic expectations by family members, or the lack of healthy family relationships. To read more about family influences on the development of anorexia, reference the article, “Academy for Eating Disorders Position Paper: The Role of Family in Eating Disorders.

Sociocultural Causes of Anorexia

When discussing the causes of anorexia, looking at the impact of one’s culture is vital.  In the United States, there is increasing focus on diets, the desire for thinness, and the achievement of an “ideal body.” The increasing emphasis on these cultural facets is evident in magazines, TV shows, movies, the Internet, and many other media outlets. Thus, the pressure to look a certain way is near impossible to avoid. This creates intense pressure on many people, especially adolescents who are more impressionable. These particular aspects of modern culture may be significant contributors to the development of many eating disorders.

As previously stated, identifying core causes of anorexia is very complex and involves looking at various contributing factors. Although the presence of contributing factors does not mean a person will develop anorexia, it may increase his or her predisposition.

The professional teams at HPA/LiveWell in Albany, NY and now Poughkeepsie, NY are skilled at diagnosing the cause and developing an appropriate treatment plan for this and other eating disorders.  This makes their ability to help individuals with anorexia achieve recovery much more successful. To read more about HPA/LiveWell’s approach to treating anorexia, click on this link.

If you or someone you know in the Capital Region or Mid-Hudson Region is in need of assessment or treatment for an eating disorder, please contact us today.

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