Anorexia Causes

by Catherine Rein
(last updated April 22, 2009)

You may know someone who is suffering from an eating disorder and feel helpless in how to address the situation. Knowing more about anorexia and other eating disorders can help you find the professional help required to overcome this serious illness.

With the images of thin men and women popularized on media throughout U.S. culture, the stress to attain a "perfect" body can be extreme. This pressure often extends through families, who push their young people to be thin. Previously people thought that minority cultures could not become affected by anorexia, that they were protected by their culture's acceptance of many body sizes, but as these groups are increasingly exposed to images of thin individuals, they are more likely to develop eating disorders.

Though the causes of anorexia are not completely understood, there are components that seem to increase the likelihood of someone suffering from the eating disorder:

  • Biological. Studies indicate that anorexia does tend to run in families and that brain chemistry is involved. Patients with anorexia have high levels of cortisol, the brain hormone related to stress and decreased levels of serotonin and norepinephrine, the hormones involved with feelings of well-being.
  • Psychological. Anorexia sufferers often have a perfectionist quality; they have a need to please others. They judge themselves severely and feel that if they are not perfect, especially in their appearance, they're a failure.
  • Family and Social Pressures. The level of anorexia in society has grown over time due to an increasing level of pressure to be thin according to prevailing notions of beauty in magazines and on TV. Families can also put pressure on young people to be thin, through criticism and by putting too much emphasis on looks.

There are other possible causes of anorexia as well. Stressful events and life changes can also bring on the symptoms of anorexia. When young people, especially women, go through puberty, the pressure to remain thin can be overwhelming. Athletes are also often under pressure to keep excess weight off, specifically those athletes competing at high levels of gymnastics, running, and dance.

Overcoming eating disorders is not easy and will require the help of trained professionals. Building a healthy body image is about being comfortable in your own body and using your body in all the ways that nature intended. By staying away from the scale and enjoying food because of its healthy taste and the way it strengthens your body you can begin to view your body in a different and healthy way.

Author Bio

Catherine Rein

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