Anorexia nervosa (AN) and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) are psychiatric disorders that involve distortion of the experience of one's physical appearance. In AN, individuals believe that they are overweight, perceive their body as "fat," and are preoccupied with maintaining a low body weight. In BDD, individuals are preoccupied with misperceived defects in physical appearance, most often of the face. Distorted visual perception may contribute to these cardinal symptoms, and may be a common underlying phenotype. This review surveys the current literature on visual processing in AN and BDD, addressing lower- to higher-order stages of visual information processing and perception. We focus on peer-reviewed studies of AN and BDD that address ophthalmologic abnormalities, basic neural processing of visual input, integration of visual input with other systems, neuropsychological tests of visual processing, and representations of whole percepts (such as images of faces, bodies, and other objects). The literature suggests a pattern in both groups of over-attention to detail, reduced processing of global features, and a tendency to focus on symptom-specific details in their own images (body parts in AN, facial features in BDD), with cognitive strategy at least partially mediating the abnormalities. Visuospatial abnormalities were also evident when viewing images of others and for non-appearance related stimuli. Unfortunately no study has directly compared AN and BDD, and most studies were not designed to disentangle disease-related emotional responses from lower-order visual processing. We make recommendations for future studies to improve the understanding of visual processing abnormalities in AN and BDD.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2013.06.003
View details for PubMedID 23810196