ALTHOUGH MANY PEOPLE DIET, UNDERLYING RISK FACTORS MAKE CERTAIN PEOPLE MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO DEVELOPING AN EATING DISORDER
Learning about the variety of risk factors that increase one’s vulnerability to developing an eating disorder can help you assess which factors apply to you.
YOUR PERSONAL RISK FACTORS
Look over the following list and check all the risk factors that apply to you.
You probably had no idea that when you started trying to fix or improve your body, you would end up with a mental illness and a bigger problem to fix. Checking the list above gives you an indication of which risk factors may have been relevant in the development of your eating disorder, indicating areas to explore when trying to understand yourself and make changes toward recovery.
IT’S YOUR BIOLOGICAL MAKEUP, NOT THE BIOLOGICAL MAKEUP OF THE FOOD YOU EAT, THAT CONTRIBUTES TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF AN EATING DISORDER.
Having one or more of the risk factors does not necessarily mean you will develop an eating disorder. What happens is that a perfect storm is created when biological factors come together with cultural factors and other psychological stressors. A helpful way to explain this phenomenon is, Our Genes load the gun and the environment pulls the trigger.
Research indicates that certain genetic factors increase your vulnerability to developing an eating disorder. If you have a family member or relative who has an eating disorder, your risk of developing one increases. This cannot be explained as learned behavior, because as researcher Cynthia Bulik and others have shown, identical twins have a higher rate of both developing eating disorders than fraternal twins. We have yet to fully understand the nature of this genetic predisposition. What Michael Strober, eating disorder expert and researcher, and others have found is that certain genetically transmitted temperament traits such as anxiety, perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, harm or risk avoidance, sensitivity to rejection, or lack of impulse control, increase susceptibility to developing an eating disorder and thus are risk factors of a biological nature. Bottom line, there are traits and tendencies that make you more vulnerable to developing an eating disorder, but the absence of these does not guarantee that you won’t.
TRAITS AS LIABILITY OR ASSET
You might have already had a thought like, Well I know I’m obsessive, so what do I do? People often admit to us they were worried because they knew they had certain traits like compulsivity or perfectionism, and they knew these traits were not going to go away. The goal is to understand your traits and tendencies so that you can use them to work to your benefit. Even though your genes shape your temperament, traits, and tendencies, they do not determine your destiny. When you understand your temperament and accept who you are, you can learn to channel your traits to work for you rather than against you. Traits like perfectionism or compulsivity can be positive if they are channeled properly and kept in balance. For example, perfectionism can work for you when doing math problems or building a computer, but becomes problematic when trying to learn a new skill or be creative. When applied to eating and your body, perfectionism is never good. Becoming aware of your traits, keeping them in balance, and channeling them in a positive direction is actually affirming of who you truly are, and will help you gain acceptance of yourself. This is one reason why we say recovery is a way of getting yourself back rather than just giving something up.
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