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Distorted Body Image In Anorexia Can Affect Movement

Distorted Body Image In Anorexia Can Affect MovementA 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

Woman with a distorted body image photo by shutterstock.

Distorted Body Image In Anorexia Can Affect Movement

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Distorted Body Image In Anorexia Can Affect Movement. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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