What causes a person to develop an eating disorder? Many factors may be involved in the development of an eating disorder, some being genetic/biological, and some being environmental/cultural. Dieting is the number one factor that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder. Weight loss in general is the dangerous component in this scenario. For every person there is a point where their body will shift into 'starvation mode' due to lack of nutrition. When this happens. the likelihood that an eating disorder will result is very high. The state of 'starvation' causes a person to become more anxious, obsessive in thought and action, fearful and cognition may be greatly impaired. All of these play right into the rigidity and fears of the eating disorder mindset.
There are also certain personality characteristics that may exist before the development of an eating disorder, but that may become more intense with starvation. These include perfectionism, obsessiveness, depression, anxiety, a need for order and/or control, fears of change, and perhaps the most common, low self-esteem.
People who are suffering with an eating disorder often display certain other common characteristics, some of which include, fear of failure, suppression of emotions, or an extreme desire to please.
It's not always clear if these characteristics are present before the onset of an eating disorder, or if they may be the result of the development of the eating disorder. Nevertheless, because of these numerous and complex accompanying 'properties', treatment for an eating disorder must be unique to each individual and complete.
There are certain environmental factors that may also contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. These may include a history of being teased about shape or size, growing up in a controlled environment with little choice allowed, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, trauma (which includes abuse), pressure to perform, little or not emotional expression allowed, or if there is dieting behavior in the family, i.e. mother has an eating disorder or is excessively weight conscious.
Much can be said for the powerful effects that the dieting industry has on society's weight obsession. This in itself is a factor that may contribute to the onset of an eating disorder, but even more, it is likely to play a role in the maintenance of the eating disorder, especially if treatment is not sought.