Accentuating the Negative in Body Image Disturbances

In this study, participants concentrated on their least-favorite body areas.

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April Volume 27, Number 2
©2016 iaedp

Body dissatisfaction and body image disturbances are central features of eating disorders. Clinically, people with eating disorders seem to be remarkably focused on the negatively viewed parts of their own bodies. Dr. Brunna Tuschen-Caffier and colleagues studied this phenomenon in 16 women with anorexia nervosa, 16 women with bulimia nervosa, and 16 control subjects (PLOS One, Dec 29, 2015). Participants performed a three-minute mirror exposure task in which their visual attention was measured using sophisticated eye-tracking equipment. Participants were in the midst of treatment for their eating disorder when they took part in the study.

The results showed that the body parts that the participants rated as “most ugly” or “most dissatisfying” to them were looked at more than body parts rated as “most beautiful” or “most satisfying.” These results rigorously confirm that people with eating disorders pay selective attention to body parts they viewed negatively. These results are potentially important for designing treatments. Additionally, they may provide further indirect evidence of the deleterious effects of mirror-checking.

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