7 Most Common Causes of Eating Disorders

An eating disorder is a mental health illness characterized by irregular eating habits and severe distress about body weight or shape. The most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. Contrary to popular belief, both males and females of all ages can develop eating disorders although they are more commonly diagnosed in adolescent females.

Eating disorders are difficult to treat and have long-term symptoms and consequences. They commonly coexist with other conditions such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse. Eating disorders are complex and influenced by a number of factors. The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown, but most psychiatrists believe a combination of biological, psychological, and environmental factors contribute.

These are the most common causes of eating disorders:


Studies on the genetic influence in the development of eating disorders are still new, but there is believed to be a link. Biologically influential factors such as hormones or brain chemicals may also indicate causes of eating disorders. Eating disorders are more likely to occur in individuals that had a parent or sibling who had one.

Other Mental Health Disorders

Eating disorders commonly coexist with other mental health issues. If an individual has a history of anxiety disorder, depression, or OCD they have an increased risk of developing an eating disorder.

Dysfunctional Family Dynamics

Contrary to how it may seem, eating disorders are very rarely about food or weight. At the core, it’s about control. If an individual has a dysfunctional family dynamic or interpersonal relationships, controlling their food intake may be their only sense of control in the world, which could lead to developing an eating disorder.

Professional Pressure

Certain careers or professionals place a lot of pressure on individuals to look a certain way. Actors, models, and certain athletes live with expectations to maintain a thin physique. This emphasis on the body and weight loss could lead to the developing of an eating disorder.

Athletic Pressure

There are many sports, both recreational and professional, that place an emphasis on maintaining certain body weight or look. Athletics such as rowing, diving, ballet, gymnastics, wrestling, and running prioritize lean bodies.


Childhood trauma is a common cause of eating disorders, especially childhood sexual abuse. This again comes back to the issue of control. Furthermore, severe trauma often makes patients feel out of control, and they’ll do anything to regain the feeling that they are back in control, including controlling how much they eat.

Societal Pressure

Peer pressure is no joke, and our current society values thin bodies. Media bombards us with images of skinny, happy people. So, many young girls especially develop eating disorders due to societal and cultural pressure to look that way.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the most common causes of eating disorders. But, since eating disorders are complex, a combination of causes may be responsible for someone developing one.

Common Causes of Eating Disorders | The Delray Center

Finally, if you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder contact us today!