Investigating the Components of Body Image Disturbance within Eating Disorders

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DateAccepted/In press - 6 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Body image disturbance has been highlighted as a common characteristic within the development and maintenance of clinical eating disorders (EDs), represented by alterations in an individual’s bodily experience. However, whilst the perceptual stability of the sense of body ownership has been investigated in ED patients, the stability of the sense of body agency in those with ED is yet to be examined. Therefore, body ownership and body agency were investigated using the moving rubber hand illusion, alongside measures of explicit and implicit body satisfaction. Furthermore, with evidence demonstrating a direct link between perceptual and cognitive-affective components of body image in the healthy population, the relationship between measures of body perception and body satisfaction was investigated. Results showed that both ED and healthy individuals displayed a similar subjective experience of illusory ownership and agency towards the fake hand, following voluntary movement. However, whilst both groups initially overestimated their own hand width prior to the illusion, the ED group displayed a significant reduction in hands size estimation following the illusion, which was not matched to the same degree in healthy individuals. In addition, ED individuals displayed a significantly lower body satisfaction compared with healthy females, on both an explicit and implicit level. Such implicit outcomes were shown to be driven specifically by a weaker association between the self and attractiveness. Finally, a significant relationship was observed between specific perceptual measures and implicit body satisfaction, which highlights the important link between perceptual and cognitive-affective components of one’s body image. Together, such findings provide a useful foundation for further research to study the conditions in which these two components relate with regard to body image and its disturbance, particularly in relation to the prognosis and treatment of EDs.

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