Previous studies suggest that emotion regulation difficulties are influential in body dissatisfaction’s relationship with bulimic symptoms. Likewise, self-compassion, which is explained through the factors of compassionate and uncompassionate self-responding, was also suggested to function as an effective emotion regulation strategy. However, research has not examined self-compassion’s moderating role in the link between body dissatisfaction and bulimic symptoms or the unique contribution of self-compassion to bulimic symptoms that is independent from its overlap with emotion regulation difficulties. The current study investigated the unique moderator functions of self-compassion, in the form of compassionate and uncompassionate self-responding, and emotion regulation difficulties in the association between body dissatisfaction and bulimic symptoms.
Participants were 154 females (M (SD) age = 23.89 (4.66) years) who completed questionnaires assessing body dissatisfaction, self-compassion, emotion regulation difficulties, and bulimic symptoms.
Analyses showed that compassionate self-responding factor of self-compassion was a unique buffer against the negative consequences of body dissatisfaction even when controlling for emotion regulation difficulties, while emotion regulation difficulties did not have a moderating effect when self-compassion was accounted for. Results revealed that body dissatisfaction was significantly associated with bulimic symptoms in women with low and middle levels of compassionate self-responding, but not with high levels of compassionate self-responding.
Overall, results suggest that self-compassion buffers the negative impact of body dissatisfaction through mechanisms that are distinct from those of emotion regulation difficulties. These findings warrant further study of self-compassion to better understand its mechanisms of action.