Eating Disorder Research

Information and Help on Eating Disorders


Potential Causes of Anorexia

The majority of experts believe that Anorexia nervosa is not the result of a single cause, but of
a combination of biological, environmental and psychological factors.

Biological Factors

In addition to the theory that some individuals may be genetically inclined towards eating
disorders, there are several other theories, one of which involves a disruption of the
interaction between hormones and the hypothalamus, the part of the human brain regulating
appetite, causing chemicals inducing guilt, anxiety and self loathing to be released after

Another theory suggests that hormone changes brought on by malnutrition may cause the
brain to become increasingly sensitive to tryptophan, an amino acid found in most foods that
can induce feelings of anxiety. Excessive exercising and starving lowers tryptophan levels,
inducing feelings of calmness and relaxation.

Environmental Factors

The anxiety, low self esteem, hormonal changes and stress associated with puberty often
combine to trigger anorexia. Add to this the constant bombardment with images portraying
thinness as beauty and disaster looms. Other potentially contributing environmental factors

Traumatic events

Exam/ work related pressures
Sexual or physical abuse
Difficult relationships within the family

Psychological Factors

Anorexia sufferers often share certain psychological, personality and/ or behaviour related
traits. These may include:

Tendency to experience anxiety/ depression
Reaction to stress is poor
Excessive worrying
Fears/ doubts about the future

Once triggered, the symptoms of Anorexia deepen negative feelings, increase hormonal
imbalances and lead into a vicious cycle of self-destructive behaviour.

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