Purpose: Anorexia nervosa-restrictive subtype (AN-R) is a life-threatening disorder relying on behavioural abnormalities, such as excessive food restriction or exercise. Such abnormalities may be secondary to an “objectified” attitude toward body image and self. This is the first study exploring the impact of anomalous self-experience (ASEs) on abnormal body image attitude and eating disorder (ED) symptomatology in individuals with AN-R at onset. Methods: We recruited Italian female participants, 40 with AN-R (mean age 18.3 ± 2.3) and 45 age and educational level-matched healthy controls (HCs) (mean age 18.2 ± 2.6). ASEs, body image attitude, and ED symptom severity were assessed through the examination of anomalous self-experience (EASE), the body uneasiness test (BUT), and the eating disorder examination questionnaire (EDE-Q), respectively. We conducted multivariate analysis of variance to investigate distribution patterns of variables of interest, and mediation analysis to test the effect of ASEs and body image on ED symptomatology. Results: Individuals with AN-R scored higher than HCs on the EASE (p <.0001). A direct effect of ASEs on ED severity (p = 0.009; bootstrapped LLCI = 0.067, ULCI = 0.240) was found in AN-R. After modelling the effect of abnormal body image attitude, the relationship between EASE total score and ED symptomatology was significantly mediated by BUT (p = 0.002; bootstrapped LLCI = 0.001, ULCI = 0.172). Conclusion: Although the exact pathways linking AN-R to self-disorder remain to be identified, a broader exploration of transdiagnostic features in AN, including explorations of different dimensions of self-experience and intersubjectivity, may shed further light on the clinical phenomenology of the disorder. Level of evidence: Level III, case–control analytic study.
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