The Genetic, Environmental, and Sociocultural Factors in Eating Disorder Relapse, and Opportunities for Prevention
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Eating disorders rank among the top 10 causes of disability among women, thereby emphasizing the profound impacts of bulimia and anorexia nervosa on both the female population and society as a whole. Their etiology shows support for a combination of genetic, environmental, and sociocultural factors in the development and maintenance of the mental disorder(s). Fewer studies have explored, however, the circumstances under which one might be prone to relapse, as opposed to a full recovery post-treatment. In this literature review, the nature versus nurture debate highlights some of the hereditary and acquired risk factors for eating disorders (Mazzeo et al., 2009), as well as their impact on levels of severity (Polivy & Herman, 2002). Treatment techniques such as stepped-care models of intervention, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), and family-based therapy (FBT) vary by type of eating disorder (Treasure et al., 2021); however, research pertaining to the extent of their promise and long-term effectiveness must be further investigated. Findings reveal that 20% to 50% of those with eating disorders will suffer from relapse (Keel et al., 2005), but predictors of this must continue to be explored. Risk factors leading to relapse seem to point toward 1) the extent of body image disturbance as well as 2) overall worse psychological function, but such findings require further support.