A new study finds that even the unconscious actions of people suffering from anorexia nervosa are influenced by their disturbed perception of body image.
Researchers found that anorexics believe their bodies are larger than what they really are and this disturbed body representation affects their movements.
The research, by Anouk Keizer and colleagues from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is published in the open access journal PLOS ONE.
In the current study, researchers examined how these disturbances may extend to unconscious, action-related representations of the body by asking anorexic and healthy participants to walk through a door and observing when they began to rotate their shoulders to squeeze through.
While healthy participants started to turn when a doorway was about 25 percent wider, anorexic participants began to do so even when the opening was 40 percent wider than their shoulders.
Based on these observations, the authors conclude that anorexic patients’ disturbed representations of their body size are more pervasive than previously thought, affecting both conscious and unconscious actions.
Researchers said, “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.”
Said Keizer, “This is why we believe 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, in other words, treatment should aim to improve the experience of body size as a whole.”
Source: Public Library of Science