Root causes of eating disorder

In your own opinion, what do you think are the root causes of your eating disorder?

  • Low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, poor self-image (34%)
  • Negative modeling of food/weight behaviors, focus on weight or dieting in family or friends (27%)
  • Emotional indifference from, or rejection by, family or friends (23%)
  • Transitions- loss, moving, divorce, non-abusive episodes perceived as traumatic (22%)
  • Lack of coping skills (17%)
  • Lack of feeling in control (17%)
  • Personality, i.e. perfectionism (17%)
  • Mentally ill family members or addicts in the family (16%)
  • Invalidating environment, not allowed to express negative emotions (16%)
  • Pressure and high expectations from family (15%)
  • Teasing or bullying (14%)
  • Physical or sexual abuse or rape (12%)
  • Unspecified abuse or trauma (12%)
  • Genetics/ biological (10%)
  • Societal messages about body and weight (10%)
  • Undiagnosed or symptomatic co-morbid condition (10%)
  • Modeling of poor coping skills or inappropriate methods of dealing with emotions by family members (8%)
  • Emotional abuse (8%)
  • Wanting acceptance (7%)
  • Satan, not knowing Christ (4%)
  • Enmeshment (2%)

Selected actual survey responses

“Poor self esteem. Sexual abuse in my childhood. Lack of proper coping skills. Undiagnosed ADD. Family history of addiction/alcoholism/mental illness. Needs were not met within family dynamics, always felt ignored and feelings were not typically shared. Never felt truly cared for.”

“…Being made fun of for my weight by my mother in front of my sisters. She did impressions of me struggling to run due to obesity. The obesity was a reaction to medication. -Mother telling me i was ugly, and that my breasts sagged. -Feeling outcasted in high school -Having low to zero self-esteem -Experiencing rape. -Needing a sense of disassociation in order to breathe in a violent household.”

“1) Insecurity. (Not feeling good enough/pretty enough/kind enough/etc.) 2) My perfectionistic personality. 3) Society’s focus on “thin is better/prettier/stronger/more desirable…””

“Events in life that were uncontrollable and deeply hurt.  The pain and shock of losing someone made eating the last thing on my mind, then once the comments of “you’ve lost weight!” and “you look good” kept it going and spiraling into a full-blown eating disorder”

“I had extensive emotional abuse as a child, coupled with seeing my mother’s own battle with anorexia.”

“Being raised by someone who had an eating disorder, the over-emphasis on a “certain” body type…the fear that anything other than that (unrealistic) body type would be “unacceptable”…who wants to feel unacceptable in their own home?  Total disregard for MY feelings, individuality, ideas, etc. No other way to express them. Guilt, loneliness, regret- just wanting to “get rid” of things in my life. Feeling that if I don’t look a certain way that I’m not worthy of anything, so I need to maintain that at any cost, and with my love of/dependence on food, the “price” was BN [bulimia nervosa].”

“Low self esteem, not having a voice of my own (used my eating disorder as my voice), inability to handle intense feelings in a healthy way, fear of making mistakes.”

“I think it is a combination of my personality, family influences, and spiritual warfare. I have had low self-esteem since very young, which made me vulnerable to an eating disorder. I didn’t have a close and loving relationship with my mother, which negatively affected my psychological well-being. I am a devoted follower of Jesus, and I believe that satan can use my eating disorder as a way to turn me away from God.”

“History of depression and my family upbringing, i was the odd one out in my family, often felt isolated, my dad would be quite hard on me and i was sensitive to his insults and my brothers teasing affected me more then he ever meant it to”

“Genetics- my paternal aunt was bulimic and I also clearly remember feeling influenced by her attitude, fear, and judgment around food. I was prone to anxiety as a child, and I believe my way to cope with it was to try to have control over my food. My family moved quite a bit and there was lots of change and my life felt out of control. I felt sad and lonely and missed my friends. I was painfully shy and it was difficult and scary to meet new people. My eating disorder was a constant companion. Later I used my ED to cope with feelings of abandonment with friends and boyfriends.”

“Not being allowed to express emotions other than joy, not being taught how to feel, upbringing that stresses importance of appearance over emotions, having parents that unfortunately were unable to express their emotions because they did not know how. Therefore, I did not know how.”

“I can’t really say I’m able to pinpoint my eating disorder down to one thing. It has been a combination of being abused as a child, loss and bereavement of family members, wanting to go back to the childhood I never got, not wanting to grow up (hating the responsibility everyone tries to force on you! You have to do this and that as an adult. I’m not ready.) Also, it has transformed from anorexia to EDNOS and then periods of BED because my boyfriend and parents couldn’t accept my eating disorder sand tried to force me to eat- which wasn’t helpful at all. I hate myself more now than I ever did.”

“I’ve always had to be okay, my mom overreacts and can’t handle the hard stuff, and my dad minimizes emotional pain. So I learned to never share what I’m going through. I suffer from depression and I haven’t been able to share that either (though I’m getting help on my own). When I was 12 and first developed anorexia the thinspo /pro-ana sites pulled me in a lot. Feeling out of proportion to my peers…. because I still had a child’s body so my stomach seemed too big. Internalized blame/self-blame from always being blamed if anything bad happened to me (even physical illness). Not being what my parents wanted (ie mathematical/scientifically minded, tall like the rest of my family, etc) An expression of my pain since I felt i couldn’t/can’t tell my parents how much I’m hurting…I think I subconsciously tried to let my body speak for me. But they believed my words saying “i’m fine,” instead. It’s also a way to control my depression since physiologically it shuts something off and I dissociate more frequently if I’m not eating (I feel like I’m not really there which is easier than intense emotional pain–but it becomes too constant)”

“… I’ve experienced some trauma’s in my life, some of them sexual trauma’s. I don’t want to have curves at all because in my mind if I don’t have them things like won’t happen to me anymore, maybe I can find someone that really likes me instead of my body….”

“I feel strongly that each of these factors had some contribution to my disease, some more than others. -Being separated from my birth mother -Extreme verbal abuse at a very early age. -Being sexually abused at a very early age. -Living in a household where food was a control tool- (punishment and rewards) -Having a lot of food allergies as a child (all wheat, grains, dairy, citrus, chocolate) and being told that this was punishment for bad behavior….”

“I definitely see a huge genetic component; most of my family has disordered eating and a few have eating disorders. Having a family member tell me at age 10, that I was disgusting, fat, and needed to lose weight if I wanted to be loved. Growing up in an invalidating environment where emotions weren’t allowed. Having no self esteem as a result of my childhood.”

“My family situation growing up that taught me to isolate. Isolation as a coping mechanism that created a breeding ground for ED behavior. But there are a lot of ED’s in my family and I also believe part of it is a genetic predisposition. I just had the right set of circumstances for it to develop and sustain itself. I was also raped at 18 and that significantly exacerbated things for me.”

“…I was brought up with a dad that discouraged me from showing emotions. It wasn’t okay for me to cry or be angry because I “had nothing to cry or be angry about.” Yet he had no problem expressing his anger. It was confusing and I never learned healthy coping skills….”

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