Causes of Eating Disorders in Teens and How to Recognize Them

The causes of teenage eating disorders are uncertain because they are very complex. Researchers have found that eating disorders are a complicated interaction of several factors which could be genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological, and social.

By studying all the potential risk factors, scientists hope to find specific areas in the brain that control eating behavior, and hopefully, develop medications to address those issues.

Issues that Contribute to Teenage Eating Disorders

Teenagers experience drastic changes physically and psychologically. They are vulnerable to societal pressure and often feel insecure about their bodies. Eating disorders appear to be caused by interactions between genetic, psychological, and social factors.

Some of these factors are:

  • Genes that control biological systems related, but not limited to food intake, appetite, metabolism, mood, and reward-pleasure response
  • Socio-culture influences that affect teenagers including messages through television, magazines, and advertising portray an ideal image of beauty that does not exist
  • Psychological traits such as perfectionism, obsessive-compulsiveness, neuroticism, low self-esteem, and negative emotions

All the issues accumulated are difficult to cope with, and teenagers may react with harmful eating addictions. They may also experience body dissatisfaction that can lead to feelings of shame, sadness, and anger. Additionally, other psychiatric problems that often appear with eating disorders include anxiety disorders, depression, and substance abuse.

Despite connections made between factors that contribute to the development of eating disorders, researchers have yet to discover a specific cause. However, researchers are studying clues to provide a better understanding of how eating disorders develop. Because of their vulnerability, it is important to recognize adolescent issues and to provide treatment for teenage eating disorders.


National Institute of Mental Health. “Eating Disorders.” February 2016. Accessed March 12, 2019.

Eating Disorders in Teens
5 (100%) 1 vote[s]