Causes of eating disorders

Annu Rev Psychol. 2002;53:187-213. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135103.


Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa have emerged as the predominant eating disorders. We review the recent research evidence pertaining to the development of these disorders, including sociocultural factors (e.g., media and peer influences), family factors (e.g., enmeshment and criticism), negative affect, low self-esteem, and body dissatisfaction. Also reviewed are cognitive and biological aspects of eating disorders. Some contributory factors appear to be necessary for the appearance of eating disorders, but none is sufficient. Eating disorders may represent a way of coping with problems of identity and personal control.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology
  • Family / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Concept*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology