Body image dissatisfaction is a significant predictor of the onset, maintenance, prognosis, and future relapse of eating disorders. Although problematic mental imagery is a core issue in various psychopathologies, there have been limited attempts to investigate the role of mental imagery in body dissatisfaction, a central feature of eating and body image disorders.
Data were collected from non-clinical female participants (n = 403, aged 18-65) who completed a set of online self-report questionnaires. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis was used to investigated the relationship between the predictor variables; age, BMI, imagery vividness (from both visual and kinaesthetic modalities), image controllability, restrained eating, body image disturbance, self-esteem, and depression on the outcome variable body dissatisfaction.
Contrary to the hypothesis, and previous findings, no unique predictive relationship was found between mental imagery ability (i.e., vividness or controllability) and body dissatisfaction after controlling for all predictor variables. However, albeit a weak association, results indicated that lower levels of imagery vividness were related to higher levels of body dissatisfaction. Additionally, as supported by the literature, eating restraint, body image disturbance, self-esteem, and depression were significantly related to body dissatisfaction.
Given that mental imagery appears to be interlinked with numerous cognitive, emotional, and behavioural processes, this preliminary study lays the groundwork for future research into mental imagery and body dissatisfaction.
Starting her higher education at Bangor University in 2009, Hazel’s studies to date have led her to achieving a BSc in Sport Science, a 1st Class MA in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology, and a 1st Class MSc in Psychology from the University of East London.
Since graduating in November 2021, Hazel has started work as both an Eating Disorder Support Worker and as a Graduate Psychologist Support Worker within the Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.
As an aspiring clinical psychologist specialising in eating disorders, Hazel wishes to focus her future research on eating behaviours, body image, and mental imagery where she hopes to make a contribution to this vast and complicated agenda.