National Eating Disorders Association

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Environmental causes of eating disorders

I have read that the causes/ cause of an eating disorder do not need to be identified in order to treat a disorder. How ever I am curious to know if anyone knows whether or not a single, negative life event such as sexual assault and/ or grief can cause one to fall into an eating disorder. This is regarding my daughter who was diagnosed few weeks ago for anorexia.

Understanding why

Hi Jghankes,

I am sorry to hear that you and your daughter are going through this difficult time. I can tell how much you care about her and imagine how much you must be worried. In my personal experience, it can often be the case that a single negative life event can definitely have such an impact on someone. At the same time, for others, it may be repetitive life events that cause them to fall prey to disordered eating. There isn't always a rhyme or reason which we can easily all just really depends!

There is so much information to share. I encourage you to contact the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (Monday-Thursday, 9am-9pm and Friday, 9am-5pm) for any additional support and assistance. You don't have to go about this alone!

Hi jghankes,

Hi jghankes,

I agree with LoveJD - I think it's hard to say in general if one event can cause an eating disorder, since different people's experiences can be so different. However sometimes recognizing event(s) that might have contributed to the development of an eating disorder can be helpful, and I think working with a medical professional (such as a physician, therapist, or ED specialist) to talk about these possibilities can be helpful in the recovery process.
The NEDA Helpline can also point you toward other resources that might be helpful, and this link ( might also have some useful information.

Good luck and wishing you and your daughter the best!