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Anorexics Accurately Judge Others’ Body Size, But Not Their Own

By Associate News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 10, 2012

Anorexics Accurately Judge Others' Body Size, But Not Their OwnAlthough people suffering from anorexia nervosa have a skewed perception of their own bodies, they accurately judge the size of other people’s bodies, according to a new study by researchers at the University Hospital of Lille in France.

Anorexia nervosa is a potentially lethal eating disorder characterized by a distorted body self-perception, an irrational fear of gaining weight and excessive food restriction. 

The disorder typically develops during the teen years and early adulthood. Those suffering from this disorder often view themselves as “too fat” even if they are underweight.

The study was small, with 25 anorexic patients and 25 normal weight participants.  Researchers asked both the anorexic patients and normal weight participants to look at an image of a doorway and then say whether or not the “door” was wide enough to pass through.

Patients with anorexia reported that they would not be able to fit though the door even when it was easily wide enough for them to pass.

In contrast, they scored just as well as people of normal weight when it came to judging whether another person could fit through the door.

Furthermore, researchers discovered a link between patients’ perception of their ability to pass through the door and their body size before they developed anorexia.

The more weight the anorexic patients had lost in the last six months, the wider they thought the door had to be for them to pass through.

“The body’s dimensions have a role in the scaling of environmental parameters in [the space around us]. Sizes are perceived relative to that of one’s own body,” said the researchers in Thursday’s issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

The misperceptions that the anorexic patients hold on to “might occur because the central nervous system has not updated the new, emaciated body,” and instead still offers an incorrect representation of the body’s former dimensions, said the researchers.

Source:  PLoS ONE

 

 

 

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2012). Anorexics Accurately Judge Others’ Body Size, But Not Their Own. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/10/anorexics-accurately-judge-others-body-size-but-not-their-own/44369.html