Pilot Study Melds Self-Compassion With Eating Disorder Treatments

In a new study, University of Queensland researchers found that compassion-focused therapy (CFT-E) holds promise in the treatment of eating and weight concerns.

CFT, which has grown over the last two decades, encourages self-compassion to alleviate suffering that is created by an individual’s self-criticism and shame.

Investigators discovered CFT-E has been helpful for adults with eating disorders, especially bulimia nervosa and obesity.

“CFT-E encourages people with eating disorders to treat themselves with kindness, wisdom, courage and strength, rather than with criticism, hostility and shaming,” said researcher Dr. Stan Steindl.

“It helps people to let go of the negative behaviors they use to control their food intake and their weight, and instead encourages them to eat regularly and adequately.”

Eating disorders affect approximately nine per cent of the Australian population while in the U.S., over eight million people have an eating disorder.

The prevalence of eating disorders is expected to rise as obesity rates have increased 75 per cent among teens over the past 30 years. Sadly, adolescent girls with obesity are at high risk for developing disordered eating.

Steindl says a major barrier to accessing treatment is that people with an eating disorder continue to experience high levels of stigmatization from others, coupled with their own negative feelings.

Low self-esteem and self-inflicted pressures are a dangerous combination. “Self-criticism, self-directed hostility and shame contribute to the creation and continuation of eating disorders, and can also hinder the success of treatment.”

“People suffering from eating disorders often report that they are undeserving of compassion, they have a desire for love and kindness but feel lonely and rejected, and have simply never considered the value of self-compassion,” says Steindl.

Compassion-focused therapy seeks to relieve stress and is designed to incorporate the development and practice of compassion for self, and others, into standard eating disorder treatment programs.

Steindl believes the success of the pilot intervention will provide opportunities for clinicians and researchers to further explore the added value of compassion and self-compassion in the treatment of eating disorders.

Steindl’s review appears in the journal Clinical Psychologist.

Source: University of Queensland

Posted by Patricia Adams