Researchers compared two different controlled exposure techniques to reduce negative thoughts and feelings related to body image. Guided exposure asks participants to observe their bodies in the mirror while describing what they see in an objective manner. The second method, pure exposure, has participants observe their bodies in the mirror while expressing the thoughts and feelings that come up. All participants received 6 exposure sessions.
The results of this study showed that both techniques were shown to reduce negative thoughts in bulimic women AND increase positive thoughts and cortisol levels over the course of the 6 sessions. However, pure exposure was found to be significantly more effective in improving body satisfaction and reducing overall subjective discomfort with one’s own body.
Sandra Diaz Ferrer, lead author of the paper and University of Granada researcher says the findings suggest that pure exposure “could be an effective therapeutic strategy for reducing body dissatisfaction in people with eating disorders.”
The most surprising finding in this study is that techniques which allow for negative expression of one’s body were more effective than those which guide patients through more neutral descriptions.
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