Eating Disorders: Cultural Causes and Alternative Solutions

If you struggle with an eating disorder, you know the feeling well: the constant war with yourself; the booming voice of your inner critic; fighting an invisible battle during your every waking moment. And if this is you, you’re not alone – eating disorders affect over 30 million people in the US.

Eating disorders are psychological conditions that have far-reaching negative impacts on your body, mind and soul. They can affect anyone, but more often take their toll on women and young people – 13 percent of adolescents experience an eating disorder by the time they turn 20.

Eating disorders are life-threatening – anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. But sadly, because of the stigma and secrecy they’re shrouded in, they’re all too often left untreated. Let’s take a look at eating disorders to better understand them and how they can be overcome.

Types of Eating Disorders

The most common types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia nervosa, which causes sufferers to see themselves as undesirably overweight, no matter their actual size, and starve themselves as a result.

  • Bulimia nervosa, which causes people to binge on food uncontrollably, then purge by vomiting to make up for the calories they ate and relieve their physical pain.

  • Binge eating disorder, wherein people binge uncontrollably, but do not purge. Sufferers often experience intense shame, guilt and self-disgust.

Causes of Eating Disorders

Far from simply a willful act of restricting calories to lose weight as some may assume, the causes of eating disorders are deeply rooted in other problems of our society and within ourselves, such as:

Cultural Causes

Unfortunately, our culture tends to places an undue focus on size, shape and weight, often equating people’s (especially women’s) value with their appearance. As social creatures, humans naturally want to be accepted, and societal beauty standards play heavily into our views of ourselves, which can be a major driver of maladaptive eating behaviors.

Biochemical Causes

Just as using drugs triggers a dopamine release in the brain for drug addicts, behaviors like self-starvation, binging and purging can trigger an endorphin release in a brain that’s become adapted to harmful eating behavior. This is what makes the compulsion feel so impossible to control, and why people need professional help to overcome eating disorders. Research also shows that problems with serotonin regulation may factor into eating disorders.

Genetic Causes

Recent studies shows a significant relationship between genetics and eating disorders. For example, there are higher rates of anorexia and bulimia among relatives of women with those disorders.

How Holistic Treatment Works for Eating Disorders

Though eating disorders cause sufferers immense pain, the good news is that they respond very well to holistic treatment that focuses on fostering a healthier mind-body connection. Mindfulness meditation, for example, has been proven to promote self-acceptance, body awareness and calmness in people struggling with eating disorders.

And when alternative therapies are combined with conventional treatments like psychological counseling in an integrative treatment program, even people who have tried unsuccessfully to recover from their eating disorders before can heal on a deeper level and experience life-changing improvements.

Integrative Eating Disorder Treatment at The Sanctuary

At The Sanctuary, we don’t believe you’re bound to live a life veiled by the dark cloud of addiction and mental illness – we believe that when you look into your inner self and address the real problems that lie at the core, you’ll be amazed at how easily your problematic behaviors fade away. We have unique therapeutic tools and a diverse team of highly experienced practitioners to help you do just that – and you’ll be completely supported in every aspect, along each step of the way.

To learn more about how mindfulness can help you recover, see our article: 4 Important Ways Mindfulness Helps Addiction Recovery.

For more information on our program options, call us at (877) 710-3385 or email us at [email protected].