All in the Mind
Last week Radio 4’s series All in the Mind, presented by Psychologist Claudia Hammond, included a piece on the use of 3D body scanners in a therapeutic setting to treat eating disorders (“Airport Scanners to help with Distorted Body Image”; 22nd May 2012). Research suggests that the scanners can be used to effectively tackle the common perception, in those with anorexia, that the individual is overweight when in fact they are dangerously underweight. Currently this perception is tackled through the use of 2D photography.
Distorted body image
The radio broadcast included an insightful interview between Claudia and a young woman who described her own battle with anorexia. She said she had felt like everyone else was lying to her when they said she was thin, as she felt the opposite and perceived her arms and legs to be huge when they were not. Claudia also shared an anecdote relating to a friend of her producer. She said that the friend, who was seriously unwell with anorexia at the time, caught sight of herself in a mirror whilst out shopping and, not realising it was her, commented to her companion how thin the girl she had seen was. The thin girl was of course her and she had been shocked by what she saw.
Treating eating disorders
In a therapeutic setting the 3D scans would be carried out by a Clinical Psychologist and would serve to allow the discussion, between the individual and the psychologist, to focus on particular areas of the body whilst watching the video feed from the scan. This potential development is the focus of research being carried out by the Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen.
Psychopathology: The cognitive approach
This development provides a useful and topical way to practise application skills in the study of Psychopathology and approaches to explaining abnormality. Students studying the cognitive approach could be asked to use this approach to explain why this technique might help to treat eating disorders such as anorexia. A good answer would need to draw upon the idea that irrational beliefs are reality tested in this technique and the beliefs contradicted with the evidence from the scans. Students could also consider why the use of 3D scanning might be more effective than the current use of 2D imagery.