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Eating Disorder Predisposing Factors

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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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?


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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