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Independent medical expert answers on psychiatry and psychology

Eating Disorder Predisposing Factors

This page abstract: Which factors make it more likely that a person will get an eating disorder?

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Eating Disorder Predisposing Factors

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Question(s): 
Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 05 Aug 2008.

Which factors make it more likely that a person will get an eating disorder?

Answer:

Research on eating disorders has shown that it is not possible to attribute only one cause to an eating disorder development.

Eating disorder development has been described as a three-phase process where the presence of certain risk factors creates a predisposition to fall ill; for this reason some people become more vulnerable to eating disorder development.
When these more vulnerable people have to face up to very stressful events, there is a high probability that they will develop an eating disorder rather than psychological, psychosomatic or other kinds of pathology.

When the eating disorder is stable, it is prone to self-maintenance.

There are different factors that predispose people to develop an eating disorder. Some predisposing factors are:

  • Being a woman. It is undeniable that a woman is more subject to the slimness cult than a man.
  • Being between the ages of 15 and 35. Eating disorders reach their peak in this age bracket.
  • Suffering from depressive disorders and having particular personality traits.
  • Being overweight. It has been noticed that many eating disorders begin with a strict diet in overweight people.
  • Having a family where weight and body fitness are considered important problems.
  • Having been victims of sexual abuse during childhood and adolescence. An incidence of abuse victims is of statistical importance in eating disorder patients.
  • Growing up in a family that had not transmitted enough self-esteem, trust in oneself and the capacity to recognize and elaborate emotions.

The presence of two or more factors will create in people a predisposition to suffer from eating disorders that will be stronger as the factors increase.

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