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on psychiatry and psychology

Eating Disorders Originating Factors

Abstract: How and why an eating disorder starts.

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Eating Disorders Originating Factors

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Written by:
  1. Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
  2. Daniela Bavestrello, psychologist and psychotherapist with psychodynamic training. Contract professor of Groups’ Dynamics in the University of Bologna. Is jointly responsible for the Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy Services at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. She works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. Writes for "Donna Moderna" and "Starbene" magazines.
    E-mail: [email protected]
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 05 Aug 2008.

Factors that can initiate eating disorder development in a predisposed person are called initiating factors. They happen to a person with particular personality traits and will most probably provoke an eating disorder development.

Two important eating disorder initiating factors are:

  • strict diet,
  • particular difficulties of adjustment to environmental stress.

It has been known, since the ‘60s, that a diet that leads to a 25% initial weight decrease, can induce a physiological and behavioural change in healthy people similar to that of an eating disorder.

Another initiating factor exists when an event occurs that a person experiences as stressful and cannot immediately find a behavioural response that is adequate and dynamic, that is a reaction capable of removing the malaise caused by stress.

Stressful situations that are considered eating disorder initiating factors by patients are:

  • the loss of a relative,
  • the end of a love relationship,
  • separation from the family, because of work or study,
  • failure at school or work,
  • a move,
  • a disease.

These events are really part of the normal life cycle of each person, but when they happen to people with particular personality traits they can initiate obsessive behaviour with weight and fitness control.

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