Believe it or not, but nearly 30 million men and women in the US battle an eating disorder, and a significantly lower number actually seek the treatment they need. Possibly, this is due to the misunderstanding surrounding eating disorders and the all too common, all too false belief that individuals choose eating disorders.
Not one soul chooses an eating disorder for themself, just as no one chooses to suffer from heart disease or diabetes. Eating disorders, be it anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge-eating, is similar physical diseases affecting the normal functions of the body and causing much physical and psychological damage. However, this in no way means an eating disorder isn’t treatable. Just like other medical conditions and diseases, eating disorders can be and are healed through treatment.
But how do they develop in the first place? Because eating disorders are not a choice, where do they come from?
Development of an eating disorder
With eating disorders, there is no one cause. Typically, multiple factors, situations and thought processes lead to the development of an eating disorder. For this reason, it can be hard to pinpoint who is likely to develop one. Nevertheless, understanding the more general and likely causes of an eating disorder helps with diagnosing and offering the proper treatment, especially since each client brings to the table a whole new story and life experience.
Some of the more general causes of an eating disorder (ED) include:
- Genetics – Genetics can and do predispose certain individuals to develop an eating disorder. In fact, individuals with a family member who has struggled are 7-12 times more likely to struggle themselves. Don’t go cursing your genetics just yet – anytime you’re in a situation where you’re at higher risk for developing an illness, including eating disorders, the power is in your hands to take preventative measures and be on alert for certain patterns of behavior which might indicate an eating disorder and take the proper combative action.
- Certain personality traits – Behavioral characteristics such as a tendency towards perfectionism, lack of confidence, struggles with self-esteem or body image, obsessive thinking and difficulty handling emotions can play a role in the development of an ED.
- Certain mental disorders – Often referenced as dual diagnosis or co-occurring mental disorders, some pre-existing mental conditions are more likely to trigger an eating disorder than others. Conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety and depression are most commonly linked to the formation of an ED, but not always.
- Excessive dieting – Partaking in excessive and strict dieting, whether or not it’s paired with overly vigorous exercise, is the starting point for many eating disorders. Even if the diet isn’t healthy or sustainable, someone might see a reduction in their weight and become addicted to that feeling. Therefore, they begin doing whatever they can to get and keep the weight off, whether or not the methods are healthy. This addiction can quickly develop into an ED.
- Experiences of trauma – Trauma, no matter what kind, sends the mind into a place of needing to cope, as well as brings up a maelstrom of negative feelings and emotions. Sometimes that coping mechanism is restrictive eating or overeating as a way of dealing with stress or emotions. Many counselors are able to pinpoint trauma as the cause (if it’s the cause), through conversations with their clients.
- Stress – Generally speaking, eating disorders are a way of exercising control over one’s life. When everything feels out of control and much stress or anxiety is present, eating can be a way to either comfort oneself or exercise control via restriction. Especially in regards to eating or restricting excessively as an emotional response to stress, an eating disorder can arise when these habits are left untethered.
- Culture – It goes without saying, but our culture is saturated with images of slender, perfectly proportioned men and women. Which isn’t natural and isn’t realistic. Our bodies were not made from plastic and should not be expected to look as such. But when the culture is putting forth lots of noise and the damaging agenda that “skinny is beautiful,” many can prey to these lies.
Recovery is possible
No matter the eating disorder or the cause of the eating disorder, mental and physical healing is possible.
At Seeds of Hope, it is commonly understood that no single experience of an eating disorder is the same. No one cause is the same. Nor is it an isolated event, meaning the entire body feels the effects of and suffers under the disease of an ED. Therefore, treatment is not only personalized, but holistic; not just the eating disorder will be treated, but any co-occurring mental disorders will be addressed and treated as well. If the ED is linked to trauma, the traumatic experience(s) will be addressed, too.
Because of the way an eating disorder disrupts the mind and body, treatment will help heal the mind and body. Not one individual leaves the treatment center without undergoing physical and mental care — after all, recovery means healing the entire thing, not just a part.
If you or someone you know is battling an eating disorder and/or seeking treatment options, reach out to Seeds of Hope today at 610-644-6464.