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Women With Eating Disorders Draw a Different Picture of Themselves

Can eating disorders be diagnosed through drawings?

ScienceDaily (2011-02-13) - Women suffering from anorexia or bulimia draw themselves with prominently different characteristics than women who do not have eating disorders and who are considered of normal weight, suggests a new study cited in sciencedaily.com:

"The results of this study show that women suffering or prone to developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can be diagnosed with a simple and non-intrusive self-figure drawing assessment," explained Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel, Head of the Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies at the university of Haifa and a co-author of the study.

The research, conducted by Prof. Lev-Wiesel alongside Dr. Jonathan Guez, Shimrit Valetsky, Dr. Diego Kruszewski Sztul and Dr. Bat-Sheva Pener, examined 76 women, 36 of whom had been diagnosed as anorexic or bulimic; 20 had no eating disorders but were overweight, and 20 had no eating disorders and were considered normal weight. Each of the participants completed two standardized questionnaires for screening eating disorders and were then asked to draw themselves. Besides being asked to draw themselves, no guidelines or limitations were set for the drawing.

The research team then evaluated the drawings and found various differences between the groups in four aspects:

* The neck: women suffering from anorexia or bulimia tended to draw a larger neck, a disconnected neck or no neck at all;
* The mouth: this feature was more emphasized in drawings by women suffering from anorexia or bulimia;
* The thighs: women with eating disorders drew wider thighs than the other groups in the study;
* The feet: women with eating disorders tended to draw pictures without feet or with disconnected feet.

I don't agree with the Lev-Wiesel's comment that eating disorders "can be diagnosed with a simple and non-intrusive self-figure drawing assessment", but I do think the drawing assessment could be part of a more thorough diagnostic evaluation.

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Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D., N.C.C., L.M.H.C., is the author of Making the Grade with ADD and ADD and Your Money. 

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