Optimizing treatment environments for trait sensitivity in eating disorders

Carol B. Peterson, Elise Weber, Leslie Sim

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Research has identified trait sensitivity as a potential risk factor and treatment target of eating disorders. Conceptualizations of trait sensitivity have depicted individuals with high and low trait sensitivity metaphorically as orchids and dandelions, highlighting their responsiveness to environmental conditions and associated outcomes. While orchids require careful tending to survive, with such care, they emerge extraordinary. In contrast, dandelions can survive a broad range of environmental conditions. Within a scientific framework, trait sensitivity can be conceptualized as neurobiologically-based, with heightened sensory, interoceptive, interpersonal, and emotional processing. While trait sensitivity may increase susceptibility to eating disorders, when therapists view these traits through the lens of environmental responsiveness, they can facilitate their client’s inherent resilience and potential. Incorporating a model of trait sensitivity into eating disorders treatment using psychoeducation, modifying environmental stimuli, and selecting optimal interventions has the potential to increase treatment engagement, deepen therapeutic collaboration, and improve outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-339
Number of pages15
JournalEating disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2024

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© 2024 Taylor & Francis.


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