Summary: People with eating disorders are up to twelve times more likely to experience body dysmorphia than those without a history of eating disorders. 76% of those with eating disorders report suffering from body dysmorphia, a new study reveals.
Source: Anglia Ruskin University
People with eating disorders are 12 times more likely to be preoccupied with perceived flaws in their physical appearance than those without, according to new research published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.
Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) surveyed more than 1,600 health club members recruited via social media. They found the number of people with body dysmorphic disorder – a mental condition marked by obsession with perceived flaws in appearance which are not noticed by others – was 12 times higher among people with suspected eating disorders.
Around 30% of participants had indicated eating disorders, and the researchers noted that 76% of those people also suffered from body dysmorphia.
The paper also found no significant associations between body dysmorphia, sexuality and social media use, although there was association with gender, with women being more likely to show symptoms of body dysmorphia.
Lead author Mike Trott, PhD researcher in Sports Science at ARU, said: “Body dysmorphia can result in anxiety, stress and reduced quality of life. While sufferers of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, share similar traits to those with body dysmorphia, research into any correlation between the two is sparse.
“Healthcare professionals working with people with body dysmorphia should screen them for eating disorders regularly, as this research shows a strong correlation between the two.”
Prevalence and correlates of body dysmorphic disorder in health club users in the presence vs absence of eating disorder symptomology
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) has been consistently linked with eating disorders, however studies that stratify associations between BDD in subjects with and without eating disorder symptomology are sparse. It was, therefore, the aim of this study to assess correlates of BDD (including social media use, motivations for exercise, exercise addiction, and sexuality) stratified by eating disorder symptomology.
Cross-sectional study of 1665 health club users recruited online completed a battery of surveys. BDD prevalence rates were calculated and logistic regression models were created in two sub-samples: indicated or no-indicated eating disorder symptomology.
The key findings showed the prevalence of BDD in participants with indicated-eating disorder symptomology was significantly higher than in participants without indicated-eating disorder symptomology, yielding an odds ratio of 12.23. Furthermore, several correlates were associated with BDD only participants with an absence of eating disorder symptomology (gender, BMI, exercise addiction, exercising for mood improvement, attractiveness and tone), with others being significantly associated with BDD in participants in the presence of indicated eating disorders symptomology (exercising for health and enjoyment, relationship status, and ethnicity).
This study provides more evidence of the complex relationship that exists between BDD and eating disorders. Furthermore, it is recommended that practitioners working with BDD subjects should screen for eating disorders due to the high morbidity associated with eating disorders.