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Perceptions of the Causes of Eating Disorders: General Overview

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In this research, assumptions about the causes of eating disorders were examined among those with eating disorders and those without it. Through understanding the differences in presumed causes between the two groups, it is possible to develop better education programs for those suffering from eating disorders.

Research purposes

Gaining such information will help scholars recognize the educational needs of the public, and better resolve missing knowledge gaps.

More accurate information may eliminate misinformation regarding eating disorders, which may motivate those with symptoms to seek help earlier and to do so without the fear of judgment.

To better educate the larger population and to better understand people's experiences with eating disorders.

Previous Studies

exploring the public's acceptance of the idea of food addiction as an excuse for overeating and assess its effects on their attitudes towards obese individuals (Lee et al., 2013)

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Participants were recruited using flyers and e-mails distributed across local universities and from flyers sent to local clinics and hospitals.

The research had a total of 277 participants: 57 with self-reported eating disorders and 220 without eating disorders. Most of them identified as white (93%). There were 43 males (15.5%) and 234 females (84.5%).

The age range was from 18-51. All individuals answered two questions.

The 1st is 'What do you think was (were) the cause of your eating disorder?' and the 2nd was 'What do you think is (are) the cause(s) of eating disorders?'.


A list of 8 key themes for the causes of eating disorders was developed from participants responses: 1.traumatic life event, issues, issues, 4.psychological/emotional issues, 5.genetics/biology, ideals, 7.sports/health, 8.eating/body image. Individuals with eating disorders most often agreed that psychological/emotional issues and social issues were the main causes, while genetics/biology and media/cultural ideals weren't. Individuals without eating disorders frequently agreed that psychological/emotional issues and media/cultural ideals were the main causes, while traumatic events and sports/health weren't. There were differences between the two groups in the agreement of the media as a cause of eating disorders. Those without eating disorders blame the media, while those with eating disorders may not be aware of the impact of the media.

Discussions & Conclusion

The findings reflect differences between the public and people who suffer from eating disorders, which can potentially be used to offer better education and awareness. In particular, the public largely believed that eating disorders are triggered by the media, a belief that is not shared by people with eating disorders. The results indicate that education on eating disorders is required. In addition, despite evidential support for the influence of genetics, sports, and family, these were rarely accepted by both groups as causes of eating disorders.


  1. Blodgett Salafia, E., Jones, M., Haugen, E., & Schaefer, M. (2015). Perceptions of the causes of eating disorders: a comparison of individuals with and without eating disorders. Journal Of Eating Disorders, 3(1).
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Perceptions of the Causes of Eating Disorders: General Overview. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Perceptions of the Causes of Eating Disorders: General Overview.” Edubirdie, 27 Dec. 2022,
Perceptions of the Causes of Eating Disorders: General Overview. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 Dec. 2023].
Perceptions of the Causes of Eating Disorders: General Overview [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Dec 27 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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