When thoughts seem more than just thougths : body image-related cognitive fusion and its role in eating psychopathology

Abstract: Recent studies have revealed that cognitive fusion underlies psychological inflexibility and, as result, a wide range of psychopathology as well. It is portrayed as the extent to which one gets caught up in the content of his or her thoughts while addressing them as if they were facts rather than an interpretation of reality. Concerning body image, cognitive fusion triggers the self-identification with perceptions, sensations and thoughts associated to physical appearance and has been accounted as a main feature in eating disorders. However, the impact of cognitive fusion particularly related to body image on eating psychopathology was yet little explored. Moreover, a measure that specifically assesses that construct was still to be created, contributing to the lack of studies in this area. The aim of the current work was, therefore, to develop and validate a measure of body image-related cognitive fusion (Cognitive Fusion Questionnaire – Body Image; CFQ-BI; Paper I) and to examine the role of such process in the relation between known related risk factors and eating psychopathological symptoms (Paper II). The present work involves several samples from the student and general populations. Self-report questionnaires were administered in order to measure the studies’ constructs. Results showed that the CFQ-BI is a short, robust and reliable measure, with satisfactory fit values, good convergent, divergent, temporal and discriminant reliabilities and an α = .97. Thereby, since the CFQ-BI presented very good psychometric features, a second study was conducted to explore body image-related cognitive fusion’s mediational role on the relationship of body dissatisfaction and social comparison through physical appearance towards eating psychopathology. Results showed that these relations were partially mediated by body image-related cognitive fusion. This thus suggests that the impact body dissatisfaction and unfavorable social comparisons through physical appearance have on eating difficulties rely on the degree to which one is fused with cognitions about his or her body image. Taken together, the results of the current work seem to present important insights for clinical practice and research in the field of eating psychopathology, contributing to a better assessment of body image-related cognitive fusion and to a greater understanding of its impact on body image and eating difficulties.

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