Intrapersonal, interpersonal, and physical space in anorexia nervosa: a virtual reality and repertory grid study.
Anorexia nervosa (AN) is an eating disorder characterized by severe body image disturbances. Recent studies from spatial cognition showed a connection between the experience of body and of space. The objectives of this study were to explore the meanings that characterize AN experience and to deepen the examination of spatiality in relational terms, through the study of how the patient construes herself and her interpersonal world. More specifically this study aimed (1) to verify whether spatial variables and aspects of construing differentiate patients with AN and healthy controls (HCs) and are related to severity of anorexic symptomatology; (2) to explore correlations between impairments in spatial abilities and interpersonal construing. A sample of 12 AN patients and 12 HCs participated in the study. The Eating Disorder Inventory, a virtual reality-based procedure, traditional measures of spatial abilities, and repertory grids were administered. The AN group compared to HCs showed significant impairments in spatial abilities, more unidimensional construing, and more extreme construing of the present self and of the self as seen by others. All these dimensions correlated with the severity of symptomatology. Extreme ways of construing characterized individuals with AN and might represent the interpersonal aspect of impairment in spatial reference frames.