A risk factor makes the chances of having disease or condition higher. You can have it with or without any of those listed below. But, the more risks you have, the higher your chances.

More than one risk factor plays a role in eating disorders:

  • Gender—Females are much more likely than males.
  • Age—Most common in teens or young adults. But, they can happen at any age.
  • Genes—Certain genes may be linked for some people.
  • Family—You may have people in your family with the same problems.
  • How your brain works—Certain pathways don't work the way they should. This may play a bigger role for people with anorexia.
  • For people who tend to be perfectionists. They may expect more than most people. They may also see things in black and white, without finding the middle ground. These issues may carry over to weight, where thin is good and thinner is best.
  • Mental health problems—Many people with an eating disorder may also have:
  • Poor coping skills—In some people, stress is much harder to control than for others. Major life events can be very painful. These can put you on a path to having problems with food.
  • Family problems—Issues with how your family works plays a big role. This may also be true if you have one or more parents who are overprotective, detached, harsh, or who have problems coping.
  • Western culture—Thinness, beauty, and youth are a way of life. These, along with other stresses influence how you think about food. This can also come from partners, friends, and family.
  • Prior abuse—Any type of abuse from your past may be linked to a higher risk.

About eating disorders. National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website. Available at: http://www.anad.org/education-and-awareness/about-eating-disorders. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Anorexia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114614/Anorexia-nervosa. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Binge eating disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T563461/Binge-eating-disorder. Updated June 15, 2017. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Bulimia nervosa. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114924/Bulimia-nervosa. Updated July 16, 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Eating disorders: About more than food. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/index.shtml. Updated 2018. Accessed September 6, 2018.

Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kotler L, Kasen S, Brook JS. Psychiatric disorders associated with risk for the development of eating disorders during adolescence and early adulthood. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2002;70(5):1119-1128.

Myers D. The relationship between sexual abuse and eating disorders. Vanderbilt University, Psychology Department website. Available at: http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/HealthPsych/CSA_and_bulimia.html. Accessed May 18, 2016.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 9/6/2018