Biological risk factors
Biological or genetic risk factors for eating disorder development may include:(1,2)
- Family history of dieting
- Family history of overeating
- Personal history of dieting
- High parental demands
- Parental substance use disorder
- Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes
Generally, mental health disorders like eating disorders are heritable, which means having a family member with the disorder increases a person’s chance of developing one themself. Heritability rates differ significantly between studies and specific eating disorders, with estimates ranging from 28% to 58%. (3)
Some psychological influences on eating disorders may include: (1,2)
- Novelty-seeking traits
- Neuroticism (tendency to experience negative mood states, including anxiety, fear, anger, depression, and loneliness)
- Conduct disorder (a behavioral disorder characterized by antisocial behaviors and a disregard for social norms and rules)
- Physical or sexual abuse
- High levels of body image dissatisfaction
- Personal history of an anxiety disorder
A biopsychosocial approach to eating disorder treatment
Many eating disorder treatment programs use a biopsychosocial approach to treatment and care because this model acknowledges all the different factors that can affect a person’s mental health, body image, disordered eating behaviors, and more.
When you enroll in an eating disorder treatment program, a mental health professional may conduct a biopsychosocial evaluation to assess each of these categories and gather information on various factors, such as: (4)
- Patient’s perception of the eating disorder and how it affects them and their family
- Duration of eating disorder signs and symptoms
- Description of eating disorder symptoms and triggers
- Description of eating disorder-related symptoms
- Current patterns of eating and exercise
- Weight prior to eating disorder
- Body image distortion and dissatisfaction
- Effects of eating disorders on school or work
- History of familial eating disorders or mental health disorders
- Motivation for change
- Past psychiatric history and treatment, if applicable
- Presence of co-occurring mental health conditions, such as mood disorders
- History of trauma, neglect, or abuse
- Personality traits
- Patient interests, hobbies, and strengths
- Current relationships with family members
- Family strengths and weaknesses
- Willingness of the family to work with the treatment team
- Educational and occupational history
- Living situation
- Community relationships
- Pre-existing medical conditions, medications, allergies, etc.
- Menstrual history
- A sensitive physical assessment, including weight, height, pulse, blood pressure, temperature, hydration status, oral health, skin health, etc.
The treatment team will then use this information to create an individualized treatment plan for the patient. Individualized treatment plans are an important facet of any recovery program since no two patients have the same experience and history. Additionally, a quality eating disorder treatment program will regularly evaluate and modify a patient’s treatment plan according to progress, making it a dynamic and ever-evolving thing.
Within Health’s biopsychosocial model
We understand that eating disorders don’t arise from one risk factor. Rather, an eating disorder is a result of many factors interacting with one another.
As part of our approach, we have a multidisciplinary treatment team composed of many different healthcare professionals, such as nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, dietitians, and movement specialists, to provide comprehensive and integrated care. The milieu, or treatment community, ensures that patients never feel alone or isolated during recovery and that they feel supported every step of the way.