There are many environmental, cultural, psychological and biological factors which combine in different ways in the development of an eating disorder. These factors can be divided into three factors, as seen below in Figure 1.

Important factors which predispose a person to developing an eating disorder include being female, living in Western society, being an adolescent, having low self-esteem, perfectionism, and/or depression, and having a family history of any type of eating disorder, obesity, depression, or substance abuse.

Significant precipitating factors which may trigger the disorder include dieting to lose weight, occupational or recreational pressures to be slim, critical comments about weight and shape, and sexual abuse. Key factors which maintain the disorder once it has developed primarily involve the psychological, emotional, and physical effects of starvation.