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Who is at risk of developing an eating disorder?

Anyone can develop an eating disorder, but there are certain factors that may increase a person’s chances of developing one of these illnesses:

  • Family History – Eating disorders tend to run in families, which suggests a strong genetic component. Of course, environmental influences and other factors play a major role as well.
  • Being a Young Female – Teenage girls and young adult women are most likely to develop an eating disorder, though men and older women also struggle with these illnesses.
  • Personality Traits – People with eating disorders often share certain personality traits. Generally speaking, they tend to have low self-esteem and difficulty coping with negative emotions and experiences.
  • Career – People who engage in certain careers or activities are more likely to develop eating disorders. For example, models and actors are under immense pressure to achieve unrealistic ideals of beauty, as are dancers, gymnasts, wrestlers, runners and others in similar body-focused fields.
  • Brain Chemistry – Scientists have discovered a connection between chemical messengers in the brain, particularly serotonin, cortisol and norepinephrine, and the development of eating disorders.


How do I find the best eating disorder treatment program?

There are many considerations when choosing the best eating disorder treatment program for your particular needs. In most cases, you will need to research online, call a few programs and ask a lot of questions. Not all eating disorder treatment programs are of the same quality, so you’ll want to inquire about the following:

  • Qualifications of staff
  • Reputation and accreditations
  • Cost and insurance plans accepted
  • Length of program
  • Daily schedule
  • Location and activities
  • Types of therapies offered

In the best eating disorder treatment programs, treatment is tailored to the individual patient and involves a combination of psycho­therapy, nutrition education and medical care.


Do men develop eating disorders?

Yes. Although eating disorders are less common in men, a growing number of males are suffering from anorexia, bulimia and related disorders. While the cause of eating disorders isn’t fully understood, many experts suggest that the media has come to expect the same unrealistic ideals of beauty from men as women.


How can I help a loved one with an eating disorder?

It can be heart-wrenching to watch someone you care about suffer from an eating disorder. You may be afraid to intervene and recommend treatment in anticipation of an angry or offended response. And you may feel a fair amount of frustration and helplessness yourself.

But you owe it to your loved one to do what you can to get them the help they need. Eating disorders are life-threatening mental illnesses that only get worse with time. Even if the individual is in denial or too ashamed to admit to eating disorder behaviors, your voice may be the one they finally hear.

Here are a few steps that will help you approach your loved one about their eating disorder:

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders and the various eating disorder treatment options.
  • Call an eating disorder treatment program to discuss interventions and the best program for their needs.
  • Share your concern in a gentle, non-judgmental way.
  • Provide information and resources about eating disorder treatment.
  • Offer your support and assistance.
  • Take care of yourself so that you do not take on the person’s health or well-being as your own responsibility.

Recovery begins with the decision to seek help, so do all you can to help the person you love accept the gift you’re giving.


Does the media play a role in eating disorders?

There are many factors that contribute to an individual’s risk of developing an eating disorder, but the media is likely one such factor. Men and women are inundated with messages from television shows, magazines and other media that glamorize ultra-thin celebrities, which may encourage them to go to dangerous lengths to achieve the same status. Studies show that teenage girls who are heavy readers of health and fitness magazines are more likely to restrict their calories, exercise excessively, binge and purge, and engage in other eating disorder behaviors.


Is there a cure for eating disorders?

There is no cure for eating disorders, but a full and long-term recovery is possible with appropriate treatment and medical care. Many people find that they must fight eating disorder symptoms for the rest of their lives, but most of these symptoms can be effectively managed with relapse prevention planning, continuing care and support groups.