The psychopathology of body image in orthorexia nervosa

A. Brytek-Matera 1, C. Gramaglia 2 3, E. Gambaro 2, C. Delicato 2, P. Zeppegno 2 3

1SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Katowice Faculty of Psychology Katowice, Poland; 2 Institute of Psychiatry, Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy; 3 S.C. Psychiatry, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria Maggiore della Carità, Novara, Italy

The human body has a complex meaning and role in everybody’s life and experience. Body image has two main components: body percept (the internal visual image of body shape and size) and body concept (the level of satisfaction with one’s body), whose specific alterations may lead to different conditions, such as overestimation of one’s own body dimensions, negative feelings and thoughts towards the body, body avoidance and body checking behavior. Moreover, body dissatisfaction can be associated with a variety of other mental health and psychosocial conditions, but only a few studies have explored the body image construct in orthorexia nervosa (ON). ON is a condition characterized by concern and fixation about healthy eating, with mixed results available in the literature about the presence of body image disorders. The aim of this manuscript is to present the main findings from the literature about the psychopathology of body image in ON. Summarizing, while theoretically the presence of body image disturbances should help clinicians to differentiate ON from eating disorders, further research is needed to confirm this finding. It is not clear whether the body image disorder in ON depends on an altered body percept or body concept, and the relationship between the disordered eating behavior and body image disorder still needs to be disentangled. Further studies regarding the relationship between ON and body image could be helpful to better understand the relevance of body image as a transdiagnostic factor and its potential value as target for treatment interventions.

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