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Are Eating Disorders Genetic?

Are Eating Disorders Genetic?

What are the causes of eating disorders? Are eating disorders genetic or environmental? These are all common questions that patients ask when entering treatments for their eating disorders. Understanding the genetic factors of eating disorders and their root cause can help researchers, patients, and the loved ones of people with eating disorders better understand conditions like anorexia and bulimia. As a drug rehab in Philadelphia that offers eating disorder help, we wanted to dive into whether eating disorders are genetic and what this means for people with these conditions.

Can Eating Disorders Be Genetic?

Eating disorders are mental or psychological conditions characterized by disturbed eating habits or patterns. There are several kinds of eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, Pica, rumination disorder, and avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder (ARFID). The individual’s symptoms and behaviors vary depending on the type of condition they have, as are their causes.

But the real question is: are eating disorders genetic? Yes and no. While eating disorders do run in families, the genetic factors behind eating disorders may not be predictive of a specific condition, but rather can contribute to the onset of a disorder. In other words, genetics can increase your risk of developing an eating disorder, but that doesn’t guarantee it’ll happen. However, a family history of, or a genetic predisposition to eating disorders increases your risk of developing one.

So, how do genetics affect eating disorders? One study found that genetics contribute to more than 50 percent of causation regarding eating disorders and disordered eating behaviors. This offers evidence confirming the genetic factors of eating disorders. Additionally, family studies found increased rates of eating disorders in relatives of women who have anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.1 This means that relatives of people with eating disorders are more likely to develop an eating disorder.

Can You Be Born With An Eating Disorder?

Although eating disorders can be passed down to family members, people aren’t necessarily born with eating disorders. Some babies may suffer from sensory issues that may prevent them from eating certain foods or make them picky eaters. These issues can later develop into an eating disorder as they get older. Also, as previously mentioned, if a child has a parent or close family member with an eating disorder, they are more likely to develop one themselves.

Genetics and eating disorders is a complex topic that requires further research to understand. It’s also important to keep in mind that while genetics can contribute to the development of anorexia and other similar conditions, they aren’t the only contributing factors. Eating disorders often co-occur with mental illness and substance abuse, adding another layer of complexity to the individual’s condition. While the research on the genetic factors of eating disorders is limited, there is enough evidence to understand how harmful these disorders can be when left untreated.

If you or a loved one has an eating disorder or suffers from a mental illness or substance abuse problem, Banyan Treatment Centers Philadelphia offers services that can help. Not only do we provide eating disorders treatment for different conditions, we also provide addiction treatment for individuals with drug or alcohol problems. Call us today at 888-280-4763 to learn more about our Philadelphia drug treatment and eating disorder help.

Related Reading:
Connection Between Self-Harm and Mental Illness
Dopamine Production and Mental Illness

NCBI – The Genetics of Eating Disorders
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.