Certain situations and events might increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. These risk factors may include:

  • Being female. Teenage girls and young women are more likely than are teenage boys and young men to have eating disorders.
  • Age. Although eating disorders can occur across a broad age range — from pre-adolescents to older adults — they are much more common during the teens and early 20s.
  • Family history. Eating disorders are significantly more likely to occur in people who have parents or siblings who've had an eating disorder.
  • Emotional disorders. People with depression, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder are more likely to have an eating disorder.
  • Dieting. People who lose weight are often reinforced by positive comments from others and by their changing appearance. This may cause some people to take dieting too far, leading to an eating disorder.
  • Transitions. Whether it's heading off to college, moving, landing a new job or a relationship breakup, change can bring emotional distress, which may increase your susceptibility to an eating disorder.
  • Sports, work and artistic activities. Athletes, actors and television personalities, dancers, and models are at higher risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are particularly common among ballerinas, gymnasts, runners and wrestlers. Coaches and parents may unwittingly contribute to eating disorders by encouraging young athletes to lose weight.
Feb. 08, 2012