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Are Eating Disorders Genetic?

Research into eating disorders has taken a long time to discover that eating disorders are in fact genetically passed on. Gaining insight into how the brain creates an eating disorder and how the brain recovers from an eating disorder has been a main incentive. Generally, it has been understood that mental illness can be passed on genetically and that a bloodline of any kind of mental illness puts a new generation at risk for developing one of any kind. Now, as Telegraph reports, researchers have found that anorexia may be genetically inherited.

The study was a collaboration between King’s College London and the University of North Carolina. 3,400 people were part of the research having their genes analyzed by researchers. Specifically, researchers were looking for genetic similarities in those with anorexia compared to those without anorexia or any other eating disorder. “In more than half of anorexia cases they found faulty genes, which are linked to neuroticism, schizophrenia and metabolism- adding to evidence that the condition is a mental and metabolic condition.” Unfortunately, the researchers weren’t yet able to identify a single gene. Studies looking into the genetics of other mental illnesses have found specific codes or even proteins to target for future research. According to the article, the researchers “say it puts them beyond the ‘needle in a haystack’ stage.” Once the researchers are able to identify something more specific

Although the researchers are yet to pinpoint the exact genes involved, they say it puts them beyond the ‘needle in a haystack’ stage. Once identified, they hope to develop drugs which could inhibit the transmission of eating disorder genetics.

Eating disorders are classified as a mental illness but not an addiction or even a process addiction, though many parallels can be drawn. Understanding the psychology of eating disorders has been a challenge for professionals in the field as well as those in recovery. Sadly, like many other mental health disorders, eating disorders receive shame and criticism trying to delegitimize the drastic effects they can have. Extreme eating disorders can weaken the heart and damage internal organs while also taking a toll on the physical body. In addition to tangible pain, eating disorders cause a wealth of mental and emotional pain.


Eating disorders are often co-occurring with substance use disorders. If you or a loved one are struggling with co-occurring eating disorders and substance use issues, call Harmony Place today for information on our specialized eating disorder treatment programs and luxury residential continuum of care.  1-855-627-1417.