The marketing advertising industry has taken its share of hits for what many believe is its role in promoting the image of the perfect body. It has also been suggested that this constant bombardment is at the root of many eating disorders, particularly in teenage girls but even beyond that. Perfect bodies have become associated with perfect lives, popularity, and the general drive to be admired, even loved. The fashion industry too has been criticized for its use of emaciated runway models, some of which have actually died themselves as a result of eating disorders.
New research, however, while not condoning these causal factors in eating disorders points the finger in a different direction. It suggests that personality traits such as neuroticism (emotional stability), obsessiveness, and perfectionism play a large role in facilitating eating disorders, particularly anorexia and bulimia. Specific studies by Samsone and Samsone (2011) on personality typologies show obsessive compulsive personality present in approximately 22 percent of individuals with anorexia…borderline personality present in approximately 25 percent of individuals with anorexia nervosa, and 28 percent [in] individuals with bulimia nervosa. (14)
Research by Hinney and Volkmar (2013) and others suggests that these traits are at least partially driven by genetics (p. 2), a theory which when analyzed from the scientific viewpoint makes a case for heredity as a causal factor in eating disorders and its diagnosis.The study of genetically related eating disorders is still in its first stages, but it has come a long way since Berrettini (2004) and his molecular research on the condition. While the author admits, as do other researchers, that cultural influences on the disorders should not be discounted, he clearly points to instances of anorexia from the 19th century suggesting that “factors other than modern culture play an etiologic role.” (p. 18) Homogeneous clinical presentation, sex distribution, and age-of-onset, all support the [strong] possibility of a genetic biological susceptibility—that genetics and heredity dictate certain personality traits consistent with the tendency toward anorexia and bulimia as suggested by Sansone and Sansone. (2011) The connection then is that the automatic and general attribution of eating disorders to cultural influences alone presents as a null hypothesis based on current statistics in the area of genetic disposition.
Current studies by Foerde, Steinglass, Shohamy,& Walsh (2015) also suggest a neuro factor in eating habits. An ongoing study conducted by the University of California School of Medicine (2002) on over 2000 participants and their parents used as assessment 6568 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) within 190 genes in 1218 cases with a lifetime history of anorexia nervosa. Results are promising in providing a strong connection between genetics, inherited personality types that contribute to eating disorders.