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What Are the Causes of the Fear of Gaining Weight?

A fear of gaining weight can turn into a life-threatening situation if it is not recognized and treated. Two very serious eating disorders that often result from anxiety about putting on pounds are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. People with anorexia nervosa will deny themselves food to the point of starvation, while people with bulimia nervosa will eat until they can eat no more and then force themselves to vomit. Most of the time, a fear of gaining weight is caused by psychological factors.

A False Self-Image

Many times, a fear of gaining weight is caused by the wrong image of oneself. A woman with this problem may look at her frail image in the mirror and see an obese person who desperately needs to lose weight. Words that imply that this person is overweight can trigger anxiety and cause fear of weight gain.

Media Projections of Beauty

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Magazines with pictures of thin models give the impression that thin is beautiful. This will often make men and women feel as though they must remain thin or lose weight to be attractive and acceptable to others. The media can trigger unnecessary dieting in people who have a fear of gaining weight.

Family Influence

Sometimes a fear of gaining weight is a problem more than one family member experiences. If a sibling or parent has this disorder, your chances of developing anxiety about putting on weight may increase. Parents sometimes serve as role models, and if you have a mother who feels dieting is important, you may start to feel the same way.

Feelings of Low Self-Worth

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Some people who fear gaining weight have a need to be the best in every way. These types are always trying to better themselves and they will often take extreme measures to avoid putting on weight. If the fear of weight gain becomes obsessive, there is a good chance these people will become anorexic.


Sometimes, stress can cause a fear of gaining weight. For some it could be stress at work or an abusive relationship. A fear of weight gain and the resulting actions taken to control the foods eaten often evolve because the person is trying to manage stress.