People with eating disorders are 12 times more likely to be preoccupied with perceived flaws in their physical appearance than those without, according to researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU). The study authors claim their research provides more evidence of the complex relationship that exists between body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) and eating disorders. Furthermore, they recommended that practitioners working with BDD subjects should screen for eating disorders due to the high morbidity associated with eating disorders.
"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,” said lead author, Dr Mike Trott, a researcher in Sports Science at ARU. "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."
The for the study, ‘Prevalence and correlates of body dysmorphic disorder in health club users in the presence vs absence of eating disorder symptomology’, published in Eating and Weight Disorders - Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, the researchers sought to assess correlates of BDD (including social media use, motivations for exercise, exercise addiction, and sexuality) stratified by eating disorder symptomology.
They surveyed more than 1,665 health club members recruited via social media who completed online 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).
Around 30% of participants had indicated eating disorder 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.