Can you randomly get an eating disorder?

An eating disorder is something that sneaks up on a person, sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly. Eating disorder often starts long before someone knows that their relationship with food has deteriorated. The exact causes of anorexia nervosa are unknown. However, the condition sometimes runs in families; young women with a father or sibling with an eating disorder are more likely to develop one on their own.

For those suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, emotions and a sense of self-worth are directly and disproportionately related to weight and therefore to food intake. National surveys estimate that in the United States, 20 million women and 10 million men will develop an eating disorder at some point in their lives. And according to the National Institute of Mental Health, eating disorders are more common in adolescents or young adults, specifically young women. But eating disorders can also affect people of all ages, backgrounds, body weights, and ethnicities.

Restraining, binge eating, and purging can cause a number of physical side effects, but many of them don't seem to be intrinsically related to one's eating habits. Some people with eating disorders can identify other family members who also had eating disorders. Women in the lesbian and bisexual community still struggle with eating disorders similar to most heterosexual women with eating disorders, but lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to have mood disorders. In addition, eating disorders are stigmatized diseases, and family members often do not share their struggles with the disorder.

If you are concerned that your child may have an eating disorder, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns. Many patients eat a large amount of food in a short period of time and then experience intense feelings of shame or guilt for their actions. Risk factors related to eating behaviors and body image may also be related to the development of eating disorders. Most eating disorders involve focusing too much on weight, body shape, and food, leading to dangerous eating behaviors.

But many seemingly harmless exercise habits can overlook signs of an eating disorder, especially in an era when friends, family, and even doctors are praising gym selfies and fitness goals. Eating disorders are also considered an affliction of the Western world and are not commonly related to other ethnic groups. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (1-800-931-223) Monday through Friday for support, resources, and information about treatment options. Eating disorders involve complex relationships between emotions, coping, eating, control and obsessions, making it sometimes difficult to recognize the problem.

If you're taking out recipes, viewing food photos on social media, and cooking or baking for others without enjoying it yourself, you may be forming an eating disorder. The DSM-5 (Diagnostic %26 Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) lists eating disorders in the category “Feeding %26 Eating Disorders” and describes that they are “characterized by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating related behavior that results in impaired consumption or absorption of food that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning. Eating disorders can be successfully treated, especially when detected early, but it's important to seek help as soon as possible. However, research from a twin study, which can isolate the role of genetics, has confirmed that approximately 40 to 60% of the risk of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder comes from genetic influence.


Brianna Reichenbach
Brianna Reichenbach

Devoted beer fan. Wannabe web maven. Lifelong tv geek. Infuriatingly humble travel guru. Devoted bacon advocate.

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