Anorexia Nervosa & Body Dysmorphia

photo used under a creative commons license, flickr user Ken Doerr

Many patients with anorexia nervosa experience body dysmorphia; they feel that they are much larger than they actually are. Recently, a study was published that investigated whether this overestimation of body size is a symptom of the eating disorder or if it is a general impairment in perception.

The study involved fifty participants; 25 of the participants had anorexia nervosa, 25 participants were control participants. Participants were well-matched based on age and level of education. Within a test room, each participant was presented with a door. The participant had to judge whether the door was wide enough for them to pass through. Presented with the same door, the participant then had to judge whether the door was wide enough for another person in the test room to pass through.The participants with anorexia nervosa significantly overestimated their ability to pass through the door in comparison to the control group, suggesting that overestimation of the passability ratios in participants with anorexia nervosa are likely to be caused by an overestimation of their own body size and shape.

The study concluded that the overestimation in participants with anorexia nervosa occurred because the central nervous system had not yet registered that the participants body was emaciated; the central nervous system had an outdated image of the participants body in it’s pre-anorexic state.

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© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. This information is intellectual property of Dr J Renae Norton. Reproduction and distribution for educational purposes is permissible. Please credit ‘© 2012, Dr J Renae Norton. //’

Source: Guardia D, Conversy L, Jardri R, Lafargue G, Thomas P, et al. (2012) Imagining One’s Own and Someone Else’s Body Actions: Dissociation in Anorexia Nervosa. PLoS ONE 7(8): e43241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0043241

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