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Eating disorders (EDs) are serious but treatable mental illnesses that can affect people of every age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic group. No one knows exactly what causes eating disorders, but a growing consensus suggests that a range of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors come together to spark an eating disorder. Once the disorder has taken hold, it can become a self-sustaining process that usually requires professional help and support to recover.
Several decades of genetic research show that biological factors play a significant role in who develops an eating disorder. A societal factor (like the media-driven thin body ideal) is an example of an environmental trigger that has been linked to increased risk of developing an eating disorder.
Environmental factors also include physical illnesses, childhood teasing, bullying, and other life stressors. EDs commonly co-occur with other mental health conditions like major depression, anxiety, social phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Additionally, they may run in families, as there are biological predispositions that make individuals vulnerable to developing an eating disorder.
National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives:
- 0.9% of women and 0.3% of men had anorexia during their life
- 1.5% of women and 0.5% of men had bulimia during their life
- 3.5% of women and 2.0% of men had binge eating disorder during their life
Our culture has complicated relationships with food, exercise, and appearance. 30 million Americans will struggle with a full-blown eating disorder and millions more will battle food and body image issues that have untold negative impacts on their lives.
Because of stigma and old stereotypes, many people don’t get the support they deserve. Help raise awareness, bust myths, get people screened, and start journeys to healing.