Self-defeating eating : the role of hypnotizability and its correlates in its aetiology and treatment

Hutchinson-Phillips, Susan (2004) Self-defeating eating : the role of hypnotizability and its correlates in its aetiology and treatment. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Dietary habits which seriously erode health and quality of life are widespread. Effective clinical strategies for overweight, obese and eating disordered individuals are needed. Such treatment options are usually based on constructs generated by theoretical models of causation and maintenance. Underpinning the current enquiry, the Hypno-socio-cultural model hypothesises links between the aetiology of dysfunctional eating behaviours and higher levels of hypnotic susceptibility, fantasy ability and dissociative capacity, as well as acknowledging the social genesis of the self-defeating approach to diet. Empirical evidence has supported the socio-cognitive theory of causation and remediation, on which this research is based. The literature has suggested that hypnotic, imaginative and dissociative strategies have contributed to clinical efficacy, and that aetiology and maintenance of such self-defeating eating might be linked to higher than average hypnotic susceptibility, imaginative ability and dissociative capacity. Generalization of research findings across studies is limited by the uncertainty introduced by the variety of measuring instruments utilized, and gender and age differences which have emerged. As well, possible individual preferences for specificity of hypnotic suggestions, which may affect responsivity levels, could dictate a need for reinterpretation of the results of relevant research.

As an initial step in exploration of these issues, a group of University students responded to a number of assessment instruments, designed to tap self-perceptions in relation to weight, shape and size concerns, eating behaviours, and use of imaginative, dissociative and hypnotic capacities, as well as responding to hypnotic suggestions embedded in a formal assessment thereof.

In this current research, expected relationships between elements of the Hypno-socio-cultural model were probably affected by a complex array of factors, which are difficult to measure using current instruments. Case studies drawn from the participants in this study have further elucidated the possible connections underlying the proposed Hypno-Socio-Cultural model, as well as highlighting the complexity of the relationships of all the factors involved. The Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory, which was used to access the subjective experience of the individual’s responsivity to hypnotic suggestion, and which also tapped imaginative and dissociative experiences in relation to same, appears to have unique potential for further exploration of issues related to the connections highlighted in this study

Findings in the current study suggested that some widely used assessments were not measuring the same constructs. Because of such factors, results which suggested links between weight, shape and eating measures, and those assessing hypnotic susceptibility, fantasy-proneness and dissociative capacity, although in the expected direction, were not as strong as was expected. In light of the anecdotal evidence of effective clinical use of imaginative, dissociative and hypnotic techniques with self-defeating eaters, the results were reassessed. It seemed feasible to interpret these results as suggesting that higher reliance on self-protective and defensive modes of using imaginative and dissociative capacities may mark the self-defeating eater. A modified Hypno-Socio-Cultural model, incorporating such a possibility, has been proposed as the basis for further study.

It is recommended that such research be undertaken, employing a variety of relevant measures, with a larger group of participants of both genders with DSM-IV criterion diagnosed self-defeating eating. The importance to clincial work of investigating the proposed model as a basis for treatment remains paramount in this field of self-defeating eating.

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ID Code: 16065
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Gow, Kathryn
Keywords: Eating Disorders, Dissociative Capacity, Fantasy, Hypnotic Susceptibility, Self-Defeating
Department: Faculty of Science
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Susan Hutchinson-Phillips
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:55
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:42

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