Disturbance in the way the body is experienced is a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa, and impedes recovery. A method relatively free of external prompts, to reduce the potential for experimentally induced biases, evaluated body image distortions (BID) in 18 patients with anorexia nervosa soon after admission to an inpatient unit, and 18 normal controls, before and after a videofeedback session. The BID were assessed in the affective and self/social domains by visual analogue scales in which the instructional set oriented subjects to (a) the sensation of fatness (Affective Response, AR), and (b) size compared with other young women (Comparative Size Response, CSR). The AR and CSR were significantly greater than normal in anorexia but decreased significantly with videofeedback, while values for controls were stable. The AR and CSR were only partially independent, indicating overlap of the domains. In anorexia only, the responses were related to two DSM-IV diagnostic criteria for anorexia, fear of gaining weight and health-weight concerns, as well as to drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction. Fear of gaining weight occupied a central position in determining the magnitudes of BID and the other measures, including anxiety and depression.