How Do Eating Disorders Develop?

How Do Eating Disorders Develop in Teenagers

There are a lot of misconceptions about what causes eating disorders, and as a parent of a child who may be struggling with an eating disorder, it can be difficult to understand why this is happening to your child. Eating disorders are actually rarely about food or wanting to be thin. People who suffer from an eating disorder will often use food and unhealthy habits like starving, dieting, bingeing and purging, to cope with any unpleasant and overwhelming emotions or stressful situations they’re experiencing. How do eating disorders develop? In this blog post, you’ll find that there are many factors that may contribute to the problem.

Genetic Factors

Researchers have found that eating disorders tend to run in families. While genetic factors may not predict an eating disorder will occur, they can contribute to the onset of a disorder. In addition, specific chromosomes have been linked to both anorexia and bulimia.

Biochemistry Factors

In studies of people who suffer from eating disorders, it has been found that serotonin and norephinphrine levels may be decreased. This suggests a link between abnormal biochemical makeup and functioning of the part of the brain that regulates stress, mood and appetite.

Psychological Factors

Eating disorders are common in people who struggle with clinical depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive compulsive disorder. However, these aren’t the only psychological factors that may lead to developing an eating disorder. Additional factors include low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness or inadequacy, perfectionism, impulsivity and trouble coping with or expressing emotions.

Cultural Factors

Dieting, body dissatisfaction and wanting to be thin, increase the risk for an eating disorder in your child. But, interestingly enough, society encourages all three of these with an over-emphasis on appearance, unrealistic beauty standards, media’s focus on dieting, and more. All of these are things that teenagers and children may internalize.

Environmental Factors

The environment that surrounds your child could also explain how eating disorders develop. Things like family and relationship problems, a difficult or turbulent upbringing, physical or sexual abuse, peer pressure, bullying, and even activities that encourage thinness, like gymnastics, dancing, wrestling and modeling, may contribute to the development of an eating disorder.

What to Do If Your Child Has an Eating Disorder

While it’s not expected that any parent diagnose their child with an eating disorder, it is important to be aware of the warning signs so that you can get your child the help he or she needs. Some signs to look out for include:

  • Restricting food or dieting
  • Hoarding or hiding stashes of high calorie foods
  • Unexplained disappearance of large amounts of food in short periods of time
  • Disappearing right after a meal
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • Taking laxatives or diuretics
  • Distorted body image and altered appearance
  • Extreme preoccupation with body or weight
  • Significant weight loss, rapid weight gain or constantly fluctuating weight

Adolescent Growth Can Help Your Child

If you’ve seen signs that your child has developed an eating disorder, Adolescent Growth can help. Our locations in California and Illinois offer comprehensive treatment for eating disorders that can be tailored to your child’s needs. Call 888-948-9998 to speak with an admissions specialist about your child. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form and we’ll call you back at the time of your choosing.