The etiopathogenesis of eating disorders (ED) is complex and poorly understood. Biological, psychological and environmental factors have all been considered to be involved in the onset and the persistence of these syndromes, often with conflicting results. The recent literature focused on the possible role of hormonal pathways, in particular the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, as a relevant factor capable of influencing the onset and the course of ED. Other studies have suggested that the onset of ED is often preceded by severe life events, and that chronic stress is associated with the persistence of these disorders. As the biological response to stress is the activation of the HPA axis, the available literature considering the relationships between stress, HPA axis functioning and anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder is reviewed by the present article.

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