Common Risk Factors of Anorexia Nervosa 

For the longest time, anorexia nervosa has been presumed to be a disease common among younger women. But the truth is that anyone regardless of gender or age can suffer from the condition. 

Below are some of the most common risk factors of this disease:

Biological Factors

Although the specific genes associated with or involved with the development of anorexia nervosa remain unknown, there are several inherited personality traits believed to be connected with higher risks of developing a serious aversion to food. 

For the longest time, anorexia nervosa has been presumed to be a disease common among younger women.

These factors include perfectionism or trying to be perfect, highly goal-directed behavior, and sensitivity. All of these traits are said to be linked with anorexia. There also seems to be a genetic connection between anorexia and people with a family history of eating disorders, OCD, substance abuse, and depression.  

Environmental Factors

People who live or grew up in Western Cultures are more exposed to higher levels of pressure in terms of appearance and weight. Norms in society also place high emphasis on thinness and beauty. Social media, magazines, media messaging, and other similar online sources further reinforce this concept. It only increases the pressure, resulting in a high level of stress, particularly on younger women. 

The following are other common environmental factors:

  • Unfavorable life events that cause trauma or stress
  • Suffering from bullying due to appearance, shape, and body weight
  • Being excessively stressed at school or work 
  • Being the victim of sexual or physical abuse 
  • Having difficult relationships in the family

Psychological Factors

Anorexia nervosa may also develop due to some psychological factors. Certain behavioral and personality traits are believed to have a connection to developing food aversion. Some of these traits include the following:

  • Tendency to prioritize other people’s needs before one’s own 
  • Excessive sensitivity to the effects of stress or difficulty coping with it
  • Difficulty in expressing emotions, particularly Alexithymia, or inability to use words to express feelings
  • Experiences that make a person overvalue being thin or appearance in general
  • History of anxiety-related disorders or depression 
  • Tendency to become a perfectionist
  • Excessive doubt or fear about the future
  • Tendency to be obsessive-compulsive

A person showing one or more of the above psychological traits might assume that they can cope with these problems with an eating disorder. This eating disorder distracts or soothes them from their feelings.

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Other Risk Factors of Anorexia 

Although there is no such thing as one specific reason why a person may develop anorexia nervosa, several risk factors increase the chances of someone suffering from the condition over another not experiencing it. 

Again, while the condition may affect anyone, the following risk factors may further increase the possibility of developing food aversion and loss of appetite:

  • Abnormal functioning of the chemicals in the brain that control eating and hunger 
  • Difficulty in expressing feelings
  • Being a woman aged 12 to 25 years old 
  • Being part of multiple births, born low weight, or prematurely
  • Being an LGBTQ+ member aged 13 to 24 years old
  • Frequent dieting particularly as a teen or child 
  • Having a family history of psychiatric or eating disorders
  • Having a higher body mass index during children 
  • Having a sexual abuse history
  • Having low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism or having unrealistically high standards 
  • Amplified pressure from society to be thin 
  • Lack of social or family support

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