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Causes of Anorexia

Possible anorexia causes include personality factors, genetics, environmental factors, body image, and biochemistry. Because doctors and scientists are not sure of what exactly causes the condition, research continues to try to understand the connection between certain risk factors and eating disorders.

What Are the Causes of Anorexia?

There is no single known cause of anorexia. However, there are several things that may increase a person's risk of developing anorexia. These risk factors include:
  • Personality factors
  • Genetic and environmental factors
  • Body image
  • Biochemistry.

Personality Factors

Most people with anorexia share certain personality traits: low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and a fear of becoming fat. In anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, eating behaviors seem to develop as a way of handling stress.

Genetic and Environmental Factors

Anorexia appears to run in families, with female relatives most often affected. However, there is growing evidence that a girl's immediate social environment, including her family and friends, can emphasize the importance of thinness and weight control. For example, regular discussion of weight and dieting may normalize societal pressure to be thin. Weight-related teasing by peers and family is related to low self-esteem, a poor body image, and eating disturbances in young girls.
Studies have shown that girls who live in families that tend to be strict and place strong emphasis on physical attractiveness and weight control are at an increased risk for inappropriate eating behaviors.
Additionally, people pursuing professions or activities that emphasize thinness -- like modeling, dancing, gymnastics, wrestling, and long-distance running -- are more susceptible to the problem.
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