When is an Eating Disorder Likely to Develop?

Sunday, Dec 12  •  


Eating disorders are often the result of dealing with underlying complications, making them difficult to predict. While causes of disordered eating differ from individual to individual, there are a few factors that seem consistent among those struggling. 

Common Risk Factors

As mentioned previously, there isn’t one single reason that someone has an eating disorder, however, there is a variety of things that can lead someone to struggle with disordered eating. 

  • Negative body image
  • History of physical or sexual abuse
  • Participating in weight-class or aesthetic sports such as wrestling or ballet
  • Family history of eating disorders
  • Untreated mental illnesses, such as depression or anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Personality traits like perfectionism 

Young People and Eating Disorders

The rates of eating disorders are higher for certain groups of individuals, especially for young people. Research shows that eating disorders are most likely to start between the ages of 14 to 25. Girls in this age range are significantly more likely to struggle with an eating disorder, but adolescent boys are also impacted. 

While no one fully understands why disorders tend to crop up during adolescence, the adolescent years are a major phase of physical and psychological development. Puberty is in full effect during this time, which can increase the amount of time someone spends thinking about their body as they adjust to their new changes. 

Athletes in High School and College 

While people of all ages play sports, peak competition is often reached during high school and college. This can lead to certain disordered behaviors as people seek to reach their peak performance. This may be especially true in sports where body shape and size are emphasized, such as in weight-class or aesthetic sports. Someone may turn to disordered behaviors to maintain a certain shape or size that they feel is needed to participate in their sport. 

Warning Signs

There are some warning signs and symptoms to look out for, including: 

  • Increased focus on body image, weight, dieting, or exercise
  • Refusing to eat certain foods, such as carbs, sugar, or fats
  • Skipping meals or only eating small portions of foods
  • Isolating from friends, family, or activities
  • Mood swings
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent body-checking, which is doing things such as frequently looking in the mirror or pinching the skin
  • Evidence of binge eating
  • Noticeable changes in weight, whether weight loss or gain
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Rigid or obsessive exercise routines

If you notice any of these behaviors in yourself or a loved one, give us a call at 435-938-6060.