Eating Disorders

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・4 Sources

Eating disorders are illnesses in which people suffer from serious problems in their eating practices and associated attitudes and emotions. Eating disorder victims typically become obsessed with their body weight or shape, as well as food. Eating disorders entail excessive or insufficient food consumption, which can have a negative impact on a person's health. Women and girls between the ages of 12 and 35 are the most affected. Eating disorders are most common in young adulthood or adolescence, while some studies show that they can occur in later life or childhood. Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder are the most common forms of eating disorders (American Psychiatric Association, 2015). These particular types are classified as a medical illness, and suitable treatment can be effective. Other conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse usually coexist with eating disorders. This paper will focus on the description and research on both the “nature” and “nurture” components of eating disorders.

Description and Research on “Nature” Components

The genetic factors underlying the eating disorders may not be analytical of the eating disorders but have been identified to contribute to the beginning of the disorders. In some persons suffering from eating disorders, some chemicals that are unbalanced have been identified in the brain (Mitchison & Hay, 2014). These chemicals are responsible for control of hunger, appetite, digestion, thus leading to the persons being victims of eating disorders.

Research studies involving the adoption, twin and family have come up with convincing evidence that genetic factors play a role in susceptibility for eating disorders. This provides the basis that eating disorders can be inherited from one person to another. Some persons who are born with particular genotypes and are at a higher possibility of developing an eating disorder. The research studies support that the persons who had a member in their families with an eating disorder, they have a possibility of 7-12 times more likely to develop the eating disorder (Hilbert, 2014). Studies pertaining twins propose that Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa are primarily subjective to genetic factors. Comparison of the identical and fraternal twins, associations are greater by two times in the eating disorders of the identical twins. There is evolving research which is exploring the possibility of the influence of epigenetics, the process by which the environmental effects alter the method by which the genes are expressed, on the development of an eating disorder.

Certain genes have been revealed to contribute to the development of eating disorders are linked to particular individual behaviors. These personalities have been demonstrated to be exceedingly inheritable, and in many instances they occur before the onset of the eating disorder, and they can still occur even after the person has undergone recovery. The common behaviors linked to eating disorders include; impulsivity, preoccupied thinking, sensitivity to both reward and punishment, evasion of impairment, emotional insecurity and sensitivity, rigidity, extreme tenacity, and perfectionistic trends.

Other studies have focused on the possibility of the neurochemistry contributing to some of the eating disorders. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin and neuro epinephrine, do give a person a sense of physical and emotional satisfaction. In specific, serotonin usually sends a message of feeling full, and one has had enough to eat even though it is not the situation. Persons who are severely ill suffering from Bulimia and Anorexia, have shown to contain considerably lower levels of serotonin and neuro epinephrine. People with depression, a condition linked to eating disorders, also have the same type of neurotransmitters which function unusually. Individuals who suffer from eating disorders incline to have higher levels of the vasopressin and cortisol hormones (Mitchison & Hay, 2014). These hormones are usually released in the human body in response to stress thus resulting in eating disorders. Neuropeptide and peptide levels also tend to be in high levels in people with eating disorders. These substances have been demonstrated to be responsible for stimulation of eating behaviors.

Description and Research on “Nurture” Components

One of environmental factor that contributes to eating disorders is the sociocultural ideals. The media has for a long time advocated for the thin-ideal of a perfect size and shape of the body. It encourages unhealthy and impractical concepts of what women, men, and teenagers are supposed to look like to fit in the society. This leads to the person developing the different types of eating disorders. All over there is Photoshop of posters and magazines photos, and these makes persons susceptible to having a belief that their bodies are imperfect or abnormal. The victims are pushed to eating disorder traits. The society places approval on extreme slimness thus causing people to be victims of eating disorders.

Dieting has been classified as the most common triggering factor in the advancement of an eating disorder. Keel and Forney (2013), suggest that about $60 in the United Sates is usually spent annually on diet and products that promote weight. In many cases, the weight-loss products do not yield to the results, but people still do continue using the life-threatening substances and also go to the extreme end with an aim to lose weight. Restricting dieting is not advisable and is not appropriate for weight loss for any age group. Dieting can increase the levels of food and weight obsession for people who are genetically susceptible to eating disorders. Feelings of guilt and shame around food also are increased by dieting which may finally lead to a cycle that involves bingeing, purging, constraining and excessive exercise. Dieting has been linked to higher rates of eating disorders, depression and increased health complications related to weight cycling.

People who are have undergone traumatic events such as sexual and physical abuse at times tend to develop eating disorders. The victims go through the struggle with a sense of lack of control, body discontent, shame, and guilt. This leads to the persons to try to redeem the control and the intense emotions by incorporation of eating disorders. The eating disorder in many instances is meant to be an expression of self-harm or misapplied self-punishment for the trauma experienced. Other people embrace the eating disorders as cover up for the lack of skills needed to endure negative experiences. The eating disorders often progress in response to the negative emotions such as depression, stress, anxiety, trauma, conflict, emotional pain and low self-esteem (Keel & Forney, 2013). While there are no available active coping skills, the persons feel relieved by the eating disorders, which do not offer any solution other than causing more emotional and physical damage. Eating disorders can be treated effectively by educating the victims the practice of coping mechanisms and self-soothing skills.


Conclusively, both the environmental and genetic factors do influence to the eating disorders. Environmental factors do contribute substantially to the development of the eating disorders. It is evident environmental factors are widespread globally due to the personal needs, traits and the aspiration to fit in the society. The environmental factors also lay a ground for the genetic factors to develop the eating disorders. Environmental factors are also the leading factor to the manifestation of the underlying genetic factors.


American Psychiatric Association. (2015). Feeding and Eating Disorders: DSM-5® Selections. American Psychiatric Pub.

Hilbert, A., Pike, K. M., Goldschmidt, A. B., Wilfley, D. E., Fairburn, C. G., Dohm, F. A., & Walsh, B. T. (2014). Risk factors across the eating disorders. Psychiatry research, 220(1), 500-506.

Keel, P. K., & Forney, K. J. (2013). Psychosocial risk factors for eating disorders. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 46(5), 433-439.

Mitchison, D., & Hay, P. (2014). The epidemiology of eating disorders: genetic, environmental, and societal factors. Clinical epidemiology, 6, 89-97.

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