What Causes Eating Problems


A common trait in those who experience eating problems is a low self-esteem or a feeling that they are not, in some way ‘good enough’. However, there is no single simple explanation as to why eating problems develop. There is never one single cause, but rather a set of different causes, which might include your personality, past experiences, and current events or pressures.


Your personality may determine how vulnerable you are. If you have some of the following characteristics you may be more vulnerable to eating problems:

  • ·         perfectionism – wanting everything you do to be perfect and rarely being satisfied with what you have done
  • ·         being very competitive
  • ·         obsessive or compulsive behaviour
  • ·         a lack of confidence in expressing yourself.

Family life

Problems with eating can often be caused or made worse by childhood experiences. For example, if your parents were particularly strict or disciplinarian you may have begun to use food as a way of gaining more control over your life. Or you may have come from a family that maintained a strong focus on food and diet.

You may find that your family find it difficult to understand your eating problems. This may place additional pressure on you and in some cases make the problem worse. If you are able to, you might want to show them the ‘What can friends and family do?’ section at the bottom of this page.


It has also been suggested that people may inherit a gene that makes eating problems more likely.

Stressful experiences

Often, the beginning of eating problems can be linked to a stressful event or trauma. This can mean physical, mental or sexual abuse; the death of someone very close; or serious family problems, such as parents getting divorced. It might also be particular pressures at school or work, such as exams or bullying.

Eating problems often develop at the same time as you are going through major life changes such as puberty, going to a new school, concerns over your sexuality, or leaving home for the first time.

Other people may not understand this, even if they are close friends or family members, and to them the eating problem may appear to have appeared suddenly, without any obvious cause.

Health problems

If you are under pressure from issues with your physical or mental health you may also develop eating problems, because eating is, usually, something that you can retain control of.

Media images

It seems to be more and more acceptable for dieting or exercising to dominate people’s lives. You will have seen images of ‘perfect’ people being presented on TV and in magazines. Women are expected to be thin and men muscular. From a very early age, children are bombarded with these images, even in their toys. If you are already vulnerable, the pressure from society to be like some celebrities, or to conform to an idea of perfection, may make your eating problem worse.

View as PDF


The Have I Got A Problem website is a free online resource to help people better understand any issues or concerns they may have about mental health or addiction. The website includes resources specifically focused to; general Mental Health, Depression, Stress, Anxiety, Insecurities, Self-harm Schizophrenia, Bipolar, Anger Management, Eating Disorders, Coping, general Addiction, Alcohol, Smoking, Gambling, Drugs, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana (Cannabis) Ecstasy, PCP, Mephedrone, Ketamine & Crystal Meth.

The site was created to give the public information to help them understand mental health and addiction issues and to assist people in making better informed decisions about their life and personal choices.

www.haveigotaproblem.com was created and is run by 'Advising Communities’, which is a UK registered charity (Charity No. 1061055)


"I feel guilty every time I eat."


MoreSend us your Quotes

Tips & Hints

  • Eat Meals with Family or Friends

    A person who is anxious about eating will feel more comfortable doing so among other people they trust, such as family or friends. This...
  • Keep a Food Diary

    Keep a food diary of what you eat and when you eat it to help you focus on eating regularly. Also record any episodes of going without ...
  • Take Regular Exercise

    Studies have shown exercise to have a positive effect on low self-esteem and poor body image, which are widely cited as being contribut...
  • Be Patient

    Unhealthy relationships with food do not develop overnight, and it can take many months and even years to regain full control over your...
  • Eat Healthy Foods

    The types of foods we eat are important. We all like to indulge in our favourite foods every once in a while, but we should also eat as...
  • More Tips & Hints