The vision in the mirror is not the image that people with Anorexia see. Whether they are 115 pounds or 90 pounds, they see someone who is overweight and needs to restrict their food intake. Their image of themselves is dangerously distorted. But a recent study showed that while people with Anorexia do not accurately view their own body size, they do accurately view the body size of the people around them. Researchers are still analyzing why an anorexic person’s brain doesn’t seem to be getting an accurate signal of their weight loss.
In the Minds of Anorexics
No matter how slim and trim are their bodies, people with Anorexia nervosa are not satisfied with their appearance. They believe they are overweight or even look grotesque, even though to outsiders their body looks normal or even too thin. This eating disorder is driven by control. A person carefully and tightly controls their diet in hopes to improve their (distorted) body image. Oftentimes, teenagers and young adults are the majority of those who suffer from anorexia. Social strains of looking like magazine-page models, pressures of looking as good as their school mates, and hopes of looking good enough to attract the opposite sex are all thoughts that contribute to anorexia. However, many adults, both men and women, also suffer from anorexia.
Getting Through the Door
If someone were asked if they could fit through a certain doorway, they almost certainly could judge with accuracy if they could pass through or not. But when someone with anorexia was asked the same question, researchers found their perceptions skewed. A recent study by researchers from the University Hospital of Lille in France revealed interesting perceptions of how those with anorexia view their own body image compared to others. Twenty-five people with anorexia and 25 without anorexia were asked if they could fit through a certain doorway. Anorexics said they couldn’t fit through the door, but when they were shown someone who was the same size as themselves and asked if that person could fit through the door, the anorexic person said that person could. While they misjudged their own body size, they knew that someone else their own size could do it. Six months prior to that question, the anorexic patients may have been correct-they may not have been able to fit through the door. Some, who had lost a lot of weight in the last six months, still imagined themselves as the same weight six months prior. In fact, the more weight the patient had lost, the larger they thought the door opening had to be for them to fit through it.
The study’s research author, Dewi Guardia, believes the anorexic patients may have had distorted images of their body because the central nervous system had not yet relayed the information that the patient had recently lost all that weight. More research could provide crucial clues to help those with anorexia correctly judge their body size and help them regain an accurate view of their beautiful body.