A Comparison of Expressive Writing Effects on Body Image: Symptomatic vs. Asymptomatic Women
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Misperception or distortion of body image is often related to development of an eating disorder. This symptom is so often associated with eating disorders that the American Psychiatric Association (2000) includes “a disturbance in perception of body shape and weight” (p. 583) as an essential feature of both anorexia and bulimia. The aim of this study was to compare body image perceptions between women who have high eating disorder symptomatology and women who have low eating disorder symptomatology before a writing task, after a writing task, and one month later. Ninety-two female undergraduates with a mean age (± SD) of 19.15 ± 1.74 years and a self-reported body mass index (BMI) of 23.39 ± 4.78 participated in the study. Results from three ANCOVAs (one for each dependent variable: ideal figure, current figure, and figure that men would prefer) showed that only the mean rating for the current figure (figure deemed as the one closest to the participants’ current figure) was affected by the writing task. In the high symptomatology group, the mean rating for the current figure decreased after the writing task and became closer to the mean rating of the ideal figure. Based on this research, writing may help improve body image perception up to one month after the writing intervention in women who already have a distorted body image.