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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Risk Factors

Although we cannot accurately predict who will develop an eating disorder, there are some situations and events that can increase the likelihood that someone will develop an eating disorder. Those potential risk factors include:

  • Gender—girls and young women are more likely than boys and men to have eating disorders; however, eating disorders do occur in both males and females
  • Age—eating disorders can occur at any age; however, they are most common during the teens and early 20s
  • Family influences—people who feel less secure in their families, who believe their parents or siblings are overly critical, or who are teased about their appearance by family members are at higher risk
  • Emotional disorders—people who suffer from anxiety disorders, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have a higher risk
  • Dieting—people who receive positive reinforcement when they diet and lose weight may end up continuing a pattern of weight loss beyond a healthy amount
  • Participating in sports, work and artistic activities that encourage a certain weight—athletes, actors, models and dancers are at higher risk for eating disorders because they often feel pressure by coaches or their industries to lose weight
  • Transitions—when people are unable to cope with changes in their lives may often feel emotional stress that can lead to unhealthy eating patterns


For extreme emergency (immediate threat of harm), call 911.

If you have an urgent need to speak with someone, please call our psychiatric emergency line at

312-926-8100, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you or a loved one needs help with an eating disorder, please call one of our psychotherapists who specialize in eating disorders at 312-458-9973 to schedule a consultation. Your calls will typically be answered the next business day.

Last UpdateJune 6, 2011


For more information or to make an appointment please call 312-458-9973.