Thumbnail Image

The effectiveness of an ACT based intervention in the management of disordered eating

Disordered eating is a term that refers to patterns of thoughts and behaviour that are maladaptive, and often centred around food, weight, and eating. For individuals who engage in disordered eating, the risk of progression to a clinically significant disorder is high, and once the diagnostic threshold is crossed, time becomes an increasingly important factor. This research endeavours to evaluate the efficacy of an intervention which is widely accessible and low cost, which may be used to address increasingly high rates of diagnosis and demand for services. The efficacy of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) in treating a broad range of disorders has been well-established in empirical literature. The present study utilised a non-concurrent multiple baseline design to evaluate the efficacy of a self-help ACT workbook intervention in managing non-clinical disordered eating. Follow up data was collected six weeks after completion of the intervention. Participants were also asked to complete pre and post-intervention measures of acceptance, valued living, disordered eating pathology, and a general screen of psychopathology. The book, ‘Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life’, by Steven Hayes, was used for the purposes of this study in a community sample. The content of the book is based on ACT and contains information and exercises based around the six core principles of ACT. Seventeen participants who were concerned about their eating were recruited for this research via poster advertisements placed around a university campus and the wider city. 11.8% (n=2) of the participants were male and 88.2% (n=15) were female. Following a two-week baseline, participants worked through select chapters in the book over the course of six weeks. All participants were contacted via telephone to collect weekly measures of suffering, struggle, workability, and valued action, which are key components of ACT. Participants were also asked to rate the extent to which the week’s reading had aided them in managing disordered eating behaviour. After completing the intervention, acceptance and quality of life ratings showed improvements at a trend level, and disordered eating pathology significantly decreased. All of these improvements were maintained at follow up. There were no significant changes in general measures of pathology, (i.e. depression and anxiety), although non-significant trends were observed, which indicated improvement. Although the small n nature of this research means that findings should be interpreted with caution, the results of this research support the hypothesis that self-help interventions can be useful for mitigating subclinical disordered eating pathology, and suggest that further research is warranted into the development of ACT-based interventions for subclinical disordered eating which are widely available and accessible to all.
Type of thesis
Babbott, K. M. (2018). The effectiveness of an ACT based intervention in the management of disordered eating (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12487
The University of Waikato
All items in Research Commons are provided for private study and research purposes and are protected by copyright with all rights reserved unless otherwise indicated.