Women suffering from anorexia nervosa perceive their bodies as being larger than they are, but the results from a new study show that this faulty body representation even goes into their subconscious. The research, by Anouk Keizer and colleagues from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, appears in the journal PLOS ONE.
Keizer and her co-researchers conducted a simple experiment where they observed both anorexic and healthy participants walking through doorways of various widths. Noting when the participants began to rotate their shoulders to squeeze through, they found that healthy participants started to turn when a doorway was about 25 percent wider, while anorexic participants began to do so even when the opening was 40 percent wider than their shoulders.
Based on these observations, Keizer suggests that anorexic patients' disturbed representations of their body size are more pervasive than previously thought, affecting both conscious and unconscious actions. "It appears that for anorexia nervosa patients, experiencing their body as fat goes beyond thinking and perceiving themselves in such a way, it is even reflected in how they move around in the world," noted Keizer.
She adds that current therapeutic interventions should not only focus on changing how patients think about their body and how they look at it, but also target the body in action.
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Source: Public Library of Science