Disturbances in the experiences of embodiment related to attachment, mentalization and self-objectification in anorexia nervosa

Hannah Katznelson, Sarah I F Daniel, Stig Poulsen, Susanne Lunn, Bernadette Buhl-Nielsen, Jan Magnus Sjögren


Background: Body image disturbance is central to both the understanding and treatment of anorexia nervosa (AN); however, the underlying psychological processes involved are still not well understood. One way towards a better understanding of these mechanisms may be to explore the sense of embodiment in these patients in an attempt at integrating the role of the body in our understanding of the development of self in AN. It is hypothesized that difficulties in affective experiences of embodiment is related to insecure attachment, deficits in mentalization and self-objectification. Methods: Sixteen inpatients with AN were interviewed with the Mirror Interview (MI). In the interview, the individual is asked a set of questions related to thoughts and feelings about the body while standing in front of a full-length mirror. Furthermore, all patients were assessed with the Adult Attachment Interview, which was coded for both attachment and mentalization (operationalized by the Reflective Functioning scale; RF). Self-objectification was measured with the Objectified Body Consciousness Scale (OBCS). Results: Results from a multiple regression analysis showed that Global MI scores were significantly associated with Coherence of mind as an indicator of attachment, RF and scores on the OBCS. Conclusions: The study suggests that affective experiences of embodiment in patients with AN are associated with negative attachment representations, mentalizing impairments and objectified body consciousness. Plain English Summary: Body image disturbance is a key diagnostic feature in anorexia nervosa but the underlying psychological processes are poorly understood. Recently, there has been a growing interest in how disturbances in the more psychological experience of the body (embodiment) in anorexia nervosa is related to both attachment, how individuals make sense of both themselves and others and the degree to which they tend to experience ourselves from the outside. In this pilot study, this was assessed with an innovative interview, the Mirror Interview, where the individual is asked a set of question while standing in front of a full length mirror. Results showed that difficulties in embodied experiences in patients with anorexia nervosa were related to more fundamental representations of self and self-objectification. This has potential implications for both the understanding and treatment of anorexia nervosa, as disturbances in body image may be seen as an underlying factor in the development of an eating disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Article number137
JournalJournal of eating Disorders
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Attachment
  • Body image
  • Embodiment
  • Mentalization
  • Self-objectification


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