Contributing Factors & Prevention

NEDA offers many programs and efforts designed to prevent the occurrence of eating disorders before they begin, as well as programs designed to promote the early identification and treatment of eating disorders. To learn more about NEDA's programs, please visit Programs and Services.

Eating disorders are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors. While eating disorders are sometimes associated solely with food and weight preoccupations, they are complex diseases with a variety of causes. Those suffering from them may try to use food and the control of food to cope with feelings and emotions that may otherwise seem overwhelming. For some, dieting, bingeing and purging may begin as a way to cope with painful emotions and to feel in control of one’s life. Ultimately, though, these behaviors will damage a person’s physical and emotional health, self-esteem and sense of competence and control.

Scientists and researchers are still learning about the underlying causes of these emotionally and physically damaging conditions. There is general agreement, however, around some of the issues that may contribute to the development of an eating disorder. NEDA acknowledges that there may be a difference of opinion among experts and in the literature on this topic, and we encourage readers to explore the topic further, using all reliable sources available to them.

About Eating Disorders Prevention and Contributing Factors

Factors That May Contribute to Eating Disorders 
A variety of biological, social and psychological factors can contribute to the onset of an eating disorder. Learn more.

What is Prevention…and Does it Work? 
Universal, selective, and indicated/targeted prevention programs are designed to prevent eating disorder onset. Learn more. 

What Can You Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders?
Prevention can take many forms: spreading awareness, modeling healthy self-esteem, and demonstrating media literacy can all contribute to eating disorders prevention. Learn more.

A Physician's Role in Preventing Eating Disorders
Doctors are on the front lines of eating disorder prevention and early identification. They are uniquely situated to develop positive body image, spot early warning signs, and promote overall health. Learn more.

Prevention and the Media

Tips for Becoming a Critical Viewer of the Media
Media messages about body shape and size affect the way we feel about ourselves and our bodies only if we let them. One of the ways we can protect our self-esteem and body image from the media’s often narrow definitions of beauty and acceptability is to become critical viewers of the media messages we are bombarded with each day. Learn more.

Tips for Responsible Media Coverage
Media coverage is essential to bringing attention to eating disorders. However, even the most well-intentioned story can turn into a dangerous how-to guide for disordered eating. Follow a few simple guidelines in order to ensure that you’re creating constructive and helpful content. Learn more.

Personal Prevention Toolkit

Losing the 3Ds: Dieting, Drive for Thinness, and Body Dissatisfaction
Tips on shedding the thin ideal, promoting body positivity, and encouraging a healthy relationship with food. These tips are geared towards those who work with young people; men and fathers; and mental health professionals. Learn more.

Listen to Your Body
Mindful eating is all about listening to your body—eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It is much more healthful, nourishing, and body-positive than ineffective and dangerous dieting, which can lead to disordered eating. Learn more.

The War on Women's Bodies
It is estimated that we see 3,000 advertisements each day, often a barrage of messages designed to make women hate their bodies. Use this shareable infographic to spread the word and underscore why media literacy is so vital to eating disorders prevention. Learn more.