Macquarie University
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Anorexia nervosa and body representation

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posted on 2022-03-28, 02:26 authored by Stephen Gadsby
Research has shown that anorexia nervosa patients represent their bodies in a distorted manner, as larger than reality. This distortion is seen in three kinds of body representations: the body percept (the mental image we have of our bodies), the body schema (used for motor control and simulation) and a representation I call the tactile form (used for certain kinds of tactile perception). In this thesis I fit this evidence into a broader framework for understanding how the spatial content of the body is tracked and stored. I do so by first discussing O’Shaughnessy’s (1980) long-term body image hypothesis. This hypothesis posits a representation that tracks changes in the spatial content of the body and supplies this content to other body representations. I argue that a similar kind of body representation might exist, supplying spatial content to the body percept, body schema and tactile form. I then explain the evidence of distortion in patients’ body representations by suggesting it arises in in this long-term representation. I also discuss what role this distortion plays in maintaining the disease. I suggest that body percept and body schema distortion causes patients to have oversized experiences of their bodies. Along with socio-cultural influences, these oversized experiences help ground patients’ propositional attitudes about their own body size. These propositional attitudes, in turn, motivate harmful dieting behaviour. As such, I show that distorted body representations play an important role in maintaining the disease.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter 1. Anorexia nervosa and distorted body representations -- Chapter 2. The long term body representation hypothesis -- Chapter 3. Anorexia nervosa and the LTB -- Chapter 4. A causal model of body affect -- Chapter 5. Expanding the causal model -- Chapter 6. Future directions and conclusing remarks -- References.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 106-135

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy

Department, Centre or School

Department of Philosophy

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Colin Klein


Copyright Stephen Gadsby 2016. Copyright disclaimer:




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