Anorexia Home > Anorexia Causes

While specific causes of anorexia are unknown, factors that increase a person's risk for developing the condition include personality traits, genetics, environmental factors, body image, and biochemistry. Because doctors and scientists are not sure exactly what causes the condition, research continues to try to better understand the connection between certain risk factors and eating disorders such as anorexia.

What Causes Anorexia?

At this point, there are no known specific anorexia causes; however, there are several things that may increase a person's risk of developing anorexia. These risk factors include:
  • Personality factors
  • Body image
  • Genetic and environmental factors
  • Biochemistry.

Personality Factors

Most people with anorexia share certain personality traits, including:
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Fear of becoming fat.


In anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder, eating behaviors seem to develop as a way of handling stress.


Body Image

The idealization of thinness has resulted in a distorted body image and unrealistic measures of beauty. Cultural and media influences, such as TV, magazines, and movies, reinforce the belief that women should be more concerned with their appearance than with their own ideas or achievements.
Body dissatisfaction, feelings of fatness, and a drive for thinness have led many women to become overly concerned about their appearance. Research has shown that many normal weight and even underweight girls are dissatisfied with their body and are choosing inappropriate behaviors to control their appetite and food intake. The American Association of University Women found that adolescent girls believe that physical appearance is a major part of their self-esteem and that their body image is a major part of their sense of self.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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