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Eating Disorders Health Center

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Topic Overview

    Certain needs, fears, family dynamics, and ways of communicating, thinking, and feeling put a person at greater risk of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating. Some of these include:1

    • Low self-esteem.
    • Difficulty communicating negative emotions, such as anger, sadness, or fear.
    • Difficulty dealing with conflict.
    • A need to please others.
    • Perfectionism or always striving to be the best at whatever he or she does.
    • A need to be in control.
    • A need for attention.
    • Troubled relationship with parents (although it may seem that the relationship is close).
    • Problems separating from or being independent of the family.
    • High expectations from family.
    • Fear or ambivalence about growing up or developing sexually—including changes to the body during puberty.
    • Struggles or fears with demands to be more independent and self-sufficient.
    • Problems with identity—not certain of who he or she is or where he or she is going in life.

    However irrational, an eating disorder brings a sense of identity, achievement, and power to certain people who have these personality traits.

    A small number of people who have eating disorders also have been sexually or physically abused. They may seek to control their environment by controlling their food intake.

    People who have eating disorders may also:

    • Have problems with moods, particularly depression.
    • Act more childish than other children or teens who are the same age.
    • Have difficulty getting along with other people, because of either irritability or an inability to interact socially.
    • Have rituals or require that things be done in a particular order every time (obsessive-compulsive traits).

      This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

      WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

      Last Updated: August 27, 2013
      This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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