The Psychology Behind Eating Disorders

Table of Content

Most people today think that eating disorders are the choice of the person that has it, but I think it is time to discuss the real reasons eating disorders exist, Psychology. Before I get into statistics, studies, and treatments I should explain the different eating disorders one might have.

  • Anorexia nervosa- mostly about having a negative body image, not being able to maintain a healthy weight, and losing weight.
  • Purging disorder- making yourself vomit, overusing laxatives, or diuretics. This is because they want to control their weight, or balance out their food intake when they are bingeing.
  • Bulimia nervosa- this is a combination of binging and purging, they eat a large amount of food then try to get rid of it. Sometimes by vomiting or using laxatives.
  • Restrictive food intake disorder- a limitation of food but does not mean they have distress about body shape or size.

More now than ever people are looking into eating disorders more as problem out of our control, nobody chooses to have this problem, one reason is genetics. “Genetics has a significant contribution and may predispose individuals to eating disorders. Researchers have found that eating disorders tend to run in families.” (Eating Disorders-Why Do they Happen?) In a twin study there was a significant rise in both twins to have eating disorders. With identical twins they are “two times greater than fraternal twins” to carry the same genetics. (The Genetics of Eating Disorders)

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When people have an eating disorder it may look like they have an illness because of the way they look. And many people think that an eating disorder is physical but it is really a disorder that is in the mind, it just has physical consequences. A consequence that people get when they deprive their body of food is the malfunction of how their biochemistry works. They can have electrolyte disturbances, Hypokalemia, deficiency in magnesium, and many more problems.

Many other disorders go hand in hand with eating disorders. Clinical Depression, Anxiety Disorders, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. These disorders can make you feel bad about yourself, make you want to be perfect, and stress you out about everything else, they can cause eating disorders by making you obsess over body and think that you need to change so other people accept them. Some side affects from these disorders are:

  • Low self esteem
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Trouble coping with emotions
  • Perfectionism
  • Impulsivity

Even though mostly everyone that doesn’t have an eating disorder knows that they are not healthy, and can afflict major damage to the body, we promote a negative body image every time we look a at a magazine, advertisement, or commercial. How to lose weight in ten days or less articles are everywhere people look, how to get the perfect summer body commercials every time winter comes to an end. Our culture is to look perfect on social media, and to shame people who have the slightest of flaws, which are probably not flaws at all. No wonder so many people have a negative impression of how their body looks, and how it should look.

Also, the environment that someone lives in could be a big factor in making someone have an eating disorder, some factors include:

  • Having relationship problems
  • Having a bad childhood
  • Maybe being abused
  • Our culture that promotes being thin and losing weight
  • Also, being picked on for being too thin or overweight

People that are anorexic or bulimic are at risk for death, but what you might not know is that people that are anorexic or bulimic are also more at risk for suicide as well. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder. The mortality rate for people who suffer from anorexia or bulimia is twenty percent. One fifth of that are people that have committed suicide. Many people that have this disorder have shown that they have suicidal behaviors, and others showed self-harm behaviors. Some risk factors of people with this disorder is:

  • Multiple suicide attempts
  • The addition of more mental health disorders
  • Bigger family conflict
  • Thinking the world would be better without them

Most of the time we think of eating disorders as just a problem for women but men face this as well. Fifteen percent of all eating disorders are diagnosed to men. Even though that doesn’t seem like a high number there are a lot of undiagnosed cases because some men don’t want to seem weak. They put on a mask and try to pretend they are fine. Also, men are thirty-five percent of the people with binge-eating disorder. Men that are “too skinny” are more likely to try steroids or other dangerous drugs to “bulk up”. As well as men who wrestle competitively, they try to drop their weight class by drinking more than a gallon of water a day and not eating for a whole week. They try to run around and loss weight right before they are weighed to make sure they are light enough. If wrestling was primarily a female sport, I’m sure their coaches wouldn’t get away with telling them not to eat for weeks on end. Then it would be considered an eating disorder because they’re women.

This mental illness can be very damaging to the body, but it can be treated if the person gets help before the damage is irreversible. There are plenty of places to go for help. For example, there is a website called Seeds of Hope that offers many different services. You can:

  • Have an experiential meal practice twice daily and nutrition support
  • Group therapy using CBT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing, and Narrative Therapy
  • Weekly individual/family therapy sessions
  • Medication management

First you have to get diagnosed with the disorder, then you can make your way through the process of getting better. For most people they can get psychological and nutritional counseling, also with psychiatric care. For nutritional counseling the person also needs to be educated on how to eat better and have a well thought out plan on how they are going improve. Research also can help with eating disorders, anxiety, or depression. Anxiety and depression could be the cause of the eating disorder so maybe just getting help for those two disorders would help greatly with someone’s health.

The research world is improving everyday to help discover new ways of diagnosing people with eating disorders and how to treat them. The National Institute of Mental Health supported research for human genetics to understand why eating disorders run in the family. Hopefully there is more research on the topic so that lives can be saved.

Cite this page

The Psychology Behind Eating Disorders. (2021, Aug 25). Retrieved from

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