The psychological causes of an eating disorder are not well understood. One of the predisposed factors of an eating disorder is an individual temperament, which is the biological feature of the personality that plays a role in the manifestation of any eating disorder.
Personality traits that are related to emotional instability such as, preoccupation with self image, having obsessions, and perfectionism contribute at some point to eating disorders. Researchers concluded that these personality traits are related at some point to genetic factor. People who have these characteristics are likely to be anxious, depressed, perfectionistic and self-critical. Thus, all of these components contribute to the emergence of an eating disorder, and hence causes difficulty managing weight and eating in a healthy manner. These characteristics are related to Neuroticism, which is “a long-term tendency to be in a negative emotional state”. Individuals with neuroticism have tendency to be depressed, they suffer from feelings of guilt, envy, anger and anxiety, more frequently and more severely than other individuals (Christian Nordqvist.2013). In addition, an individual with neuroticism is typically self-conscious and shy.
According to the national institute of mental health, an eating disorder is a disorder that can lead to sever dysfunction in human health and that because of a problematic behavior to one’s everyday diet. For example, eating a very small amount of food (anorexia) or severely overeating (bulimia and binge eating disorder). A person with an eating disorder may have started out just eating smaller or larger amounts of food, but at some point, the urge to eat less or more spiraled out of control. Severe distress or concern about body weight or shape may also signal an eating disorder. Common eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.
Being competitive and driven to succeed are common traits in individuals with anorexia and bulimia. Furthermore, they are likely to have unrealistic expectations of themselves as they compare their appearance and accomplishments against unrealistic standards. Most of their beliefs stem from their culture and peer and or media pressure rather than personal preference. Hence, those who suffer from aneating disorder tend to be anxious about what other people might think of them. (B. ENGEL, N. STAATS, and M. DOMBECK .2007)
Despite of types of standards they set their life for, individuals with eating disorder usually make every effort to meet the greatest standard of performance possible to the point that they find themselves in a self-defeating cycle that is full of apprehension and frustration, especially when they don’t reach their expectations and goals,
People with anorexia tend to have obsessive thoughts about food and this obsession accompanied with the idea of controlling their eating. In addition to that, people with an eating disorder have irrational thoughts that has to do with “black and white cognitive distortion”, such as, “I could be either perfect or horrible. Due to that cognitive rigidity, individuals with anorexia tend to be not capable of recognizing that their behaviors are out of control and that there are different ways to be happy in addition to weight loss. Thus, it is very hard for them to accept advices or other point of views from other people
Clinicians have suggested that individuals with eating disorders are lacking of essential coping mechanisms and they use that dysfunctional eating behavior to compensate these coping mechanisms they tend to abuse eating habit to sooth and comfort themselves. Furthermore, they tend to numb their emotional pain, seek attention, release stress, control, punish, and protect themselves.
People with binge eating disorders use food as a coping skill. However, people with anorexia and bulimia use disordered behavior as a means to become thin. Most people who binge eats have trouble dealing with intensive emotions, such as anger, depression, boredom, and anxiety. According to research findings, about half of all binge eaters have depression. The findings however were not clear whether depression is a side effect or a cause of binge eating. Individuals who binge didn’t learn or have healthy coping skills so they use food to bring comfort and sooth their aching psyche.
In addition to psychotropic medication such as antidepressant, psychotherapy, especially CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) that is tailored to the individuals with eating disorder, has been shown to be effective. This type of therapy can be offered in an individual or group environment.