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What causes eating disorders?

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Quick Answer

As of 2015, eating disorders do not have an exact known cause, according to Mayo Clinic. Experts suggest multiple factors, such as the body’s genetic composition, as causes of eating disorders. Emotional health and societal pressures can predispose certain individuals to eating disorders.

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Full Answer

Experts state that genetic changes in a person’s body may make him more susceptible to eating disorders such as anorexia. An individual whose first-degree relatives have eating disorders is at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder, notes Mayo Clinic.

A person in poor psychological and emotional health may also be at higher risk of developing an eating disorder. She may have a history of troubled relationships, exhibit impulsive behavior, strive for perfection or have low self worth. An obsessive-compulsive personality may force a person to stick to a particular diet or forgo food. To reduce anxiety, some people may restrict their eating, explains Mayo Clinic. People with eating disorders are usually unhappy about their bodies, and such negative perceptions may prefigure full-blown disorders, according to Harvard Medical School.

People often equate or relate success and personal worth with a thin body. Among young people, the media and a person’s peers tend to pressure an individual to stay thin, notes Mayo Clinic. In midlife, issues such as divorce or a shift in priorities may cause eating disorders, while increased self-awareness about aging may lead to bulimia, anorexia and other disorders, reports Harvard Medical School.

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