Women suffering from anorexia or bulimia draw themselves with different characteristics than women who do not have eating disorders and who are considered of normal weight. That according to a new joint study from the University of Haifa, Soroka University Medical Center and Achva Academic College, published in The Arts in Psychotherapy journal.

The Israeli research teams examined 76 women, 36 of whom had been diagnosed as anorexic or bulimic; 20 had no eating disorders but were overweight, and 20 had no eating disorders and were considered normal weight. The participants completed two standardized questionnaires for screening eating disorders and were then asked to draw themselves.

The results were clear.

Women suffering from anorexia or bulimia tended to draw a larger neck, a disconnected neck or no neck at all. Women suffering from bulimia emphasized the mouth in their drawings. The women with eating disorders drew wider thighs than the other groups in the study and also tended to draw pictures without feet or with disconnected feet.


“The results of this study show that women suffering or prone to developing eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, can be diagnosed with a simple and non-intrusive self-figure drawing assessment,” explained Prof. Rachel Lev-Wiesel, Head of the Graduate School of Creative Art Therapies at the University of Haifa and a co-author of the study.

Normal weight

In order to assess the reliability of the drawing test, the more pronounced results were compared with the two standardized eating disorders screening tests, and a very strong correlation was found between all the tests.

“Women suffering from eating disorders usually tend to hide their condition, even from their professional therapists. They often find it difficult to talk about their problem, so a non-verbal and non-intrusive tool such as a simple request for a self-figure drawing can become an important tool in creative art therapy,” said Prof. Lev-Wiesel.

In related news, an earlier study by University of Haifa researchers linked Facebook use with anorexia.