resources banner

Are Eating Disorder Hereditary?

If someone in your family has an eating disorder, you may be asking yourself, "Is it hereditary? Am I at risk?"

The high incidence of eating disorders in families has led researchers to think that there might be a genetic component. Studies have shown that 58% to 76% of the occurrences of anorexia nervosa can be attributed to genetic factors.

The prevalence of anorexia nervosa in sisters of patients is estimated at 6%. Most genetic evidence of the development of anorexia nervosa comes from twin studies, in which the twins are raised apart. These studies reported substantially higher rates for the development of anorexia in identical twins than for non-identical twin pairs.

Researchers have also identified shared genetic susceptibilities to major depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and personality disorders. The tendency toward addictive behavior may be caused by low values of dopamine and CSF-5-HIAA (brain serotonin turnover rate) which causes these individuals to experience higher levels of stress.

However, not everyone with a family history of addictive develops an eating disorder. If addiction runs in your family, it's very important that you develop healthy ways to cope with stress that will help stabilize the concentration of serotonin in your brain.