Self-compassion Tied to Better Quality of Life in Adults With CF

Marisa Wexler MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler MS |

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People with cystic fibrosis (CF) who score highly on measures of self-compassion tend also to report higher quality of life, a study found.

“The current findings suggest that psychological interventions which increase self-compassion could be beneficial for enhancing better mental health and quality of life for adults with CF,” researchers wrote.

The study, “Exploring Associations Between Self-Compassion, Self-Criticism, Mental Health, and Quality of Life in Adults with Cystic Fibrosis: Informing Future Interventions,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings.

Self-compassion is generally defined as treating oneself with kindness and understanding — being mindful of one’s own feelings and humanity — while trying to minimize judging or isolating. Accumulating research suggests that people who are more compassionate to themselves tend to report fewer mental health problems and a better ability to cope with pain.

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Here, a team of scientists in the U.K. surveyed 114 adults with CF with standardized questionnaires about self-compassion, as well as life quality and related measures.

“Self-compassion is increasingly recognised as an important factor in quality of life and mental health research. It is therefore important that we understand more about how self-compassion could be integrated into both clinical care and self-care within the adult CF population,” the team wrote.

Yet the scientists noted that studies on self-compassion and self-criticism within adults with CF remain scarce.

Among the survey respondents, ages ranged from 18 to 70, with a roughly even number of men and women. Most respondents were white, and most were employed.

Statistical analyses of participants’ scores showed significant associations between more self-compassion and better life quality. Sample items of the self-compassion scale included “I’m kind to myself when I’m experiencing suffering.”

By contrast, higher scores for self-criticism were linked with poorer life quality. Sample items of the Functions of Self-Criticizing/Attacking Scale included “I get critical and angry with myself to keep myself in check.”

Better scores in all nine quality of life subscales — physical functioning, social functioning, treatment issues, chest symptoms, emotional functioning, concerns for the future, interpersonal relationships, body image, and career concerns — were linked to less anxiety, stress, and depression.

“Individuals who endorsed better quality of life tended to report greater self-compassion, whereas those who reported more severe negative emotional states endorsed greater self-criticism,” the researchers wrote.

Further statistical analyses indicated that self-compassion moderated the relationship between anxiety and body image — in other words, body image issues were less likely to cause problems if the person had high self-compassion. Self-compassion also moderated the connection between treatment problems and anxiety.

“Self-compassionate people recognise that experiencing life difficulties is inevitable and accept this reality with self-kindness rather than self-judgement when confronted with painful experiences,” the investigators concluded. “Thus, self-compassion may be an important resource for adults with CF when experiencing challenging periods in life.”

The team added that psychological interventions aiming to increase self-compassion “could reduce the psychological impact of changes in health-related quality of life.”

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