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Study Aims to Prove that Self-Compassion Can Reduce Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders and Self-CompassionFlinders University professor Tracey Wade is embarking on a yearlong study that will explore the effect of self-compassion, or silencing an individual’s inner critic, on eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.

Wade, a professor in the School of Psychology, will focus on three risk factors that she’s identified as triggers for eating disorders: perfectionism, negative moods and weight control, which includes dieting. After the in-depth study, Wade will include short online exercises that teach self-compassion and mindfulness to observe whether or not they affect the risk factors that can lead to eating disorders.

100 students will be recruited for the study and Wade hopes that the study will show the effect of self-compassion on eating disorders. Whereas self-esteem has been studied at length in regards to eating disorders, Wade says that there hasn’t been a similar study involving self-compassion. There have also been studies exploring the connection between dieting and perfectionism, but Wade believes that studying all three risk factors together will give a deeper insight into disordered eating.

Self-compassion would help patients handle negative aspects like anxiety, depression, mood swings and more, which has already been shown to help patients away from eating disorder risk factors. Wade hopes that through her study, she’ll find a way to use self-compassion in the treatment phase of an eating disorder. According to Wade, the study won’t just focus on removing all three risk factors. She will also observe how removing just one risk factor, such as negative mood, with self-compassion impacts patients and their recovery.

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