Modifying affective and cognitive responses regarding body image difficulties in breast cancer survivors using a self-compassion-based writing intervention

Astrid Przezdziecki, Kerry A. Sherman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


The body image-related concerns of breast cancer survivors following treatment are not always adequately addressed. Self-compassion, which is the capacity to adopt a kind, caring attitude to oneself in times of difficulty, has been linked to decreased psychological distress. The aim of this study was to determine the affective and cognitive impact of a self-compassionate writing activity regarding adverse bodily changes. Female breast cancer survivors (N = 105) were recruited through an Australian consumer organization and completed an initial background questionnaire including Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale, Body Image Scale, Body Appreciation Scale and Self-Compassion Scale. Participants were then randomly allocated to either a self-compassion-focused (experimental) or unstructured writing (control) condition regarding their experiences of body image difficulties after cancer treatment. Ratings of affect and cognition were assessed immediately prior to, and following, completion of the paper-based writing activity. Multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA), controlling for pre-intervention levels of affect and cognition, indicated a significant main effect for the experimental condition, F(2, 104) = 4.70, p = 0.01, and ηp 2 = 0.08. Univariate tests revealed significantly lower negative affect and greater self-compassionate attitude in experimental compared to control participants. Writing according to self-compassionate-focused prompts resulted in lower levels of negative affect and an increased self-compassionate attitude during exposure to difficult memories related to body image, compared with unstructured writing about these experiences. These findings provide preliminary evidence for the usefulness of a relatively simple and inexpensive self-compassionate writing intervention to address body image-related issues in breast cancer survivors, with potential application of this model to many other client settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1142-1155
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016



  • Self-compassion
  • Mindfulness
  • Breast cancer
  • Body image
  • Psychological distress
  • Writing

Cite this